On February 6, 2013, the Department of Labor announced a final rule that will expand protection for military service members’ families under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  The final rule, which can be found here, takes effect on March 8, 2013. 

The final rule makes the following major changes to the FMLA:

  • Defining “covered service member” to include certain veterans.
  • Defining a “serious injury or illness” of a covered veteran to constitute any one of four enumerated alternatives, creating a flexible definition of the term.
  • Permitting FMLA eligible employees to obtain certifications from any health care provider authorized to provide certifications under the FMLA, not just Department of Defense affiliated providers as previously required.
  • Replacing the existing definition of “active duty” with two new definitions, “covered active duty” for regular armed forces members and “covered active duty or call to covered active duty” for reserve members, both of which require deployment in a foreign country.
  • Increasing “exigency leave” for rest and recuperation from 5 to 15 calendar days.

In order to ensure compliance with the new rule, employers subject to the FMLA should consult with legal counsel to update their handbooks and FMLA leave policies, as may be necessary