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How will the Pending FMLA Changes Affect Your Business?

Employers Must Display Updated FMLA Posting by March 8, 2013

On February 5, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) with changes to the act in regards to eligibility for family of military personnel, veterans and airline flight and attendant crews.

Employers are required to post updated 2013 FMLA posting information to employees. All employers covered under the FMLA, private employers with 50 or more employees companywide, and all public employers are required to display the updated FMLA poster by March 8th of this year. 

According to DOL regulations, the 2013 FMLA posting must be "displayed in a conspicuous place where employees and applicants for employment can see it." Covered employers are required to place FMLA posters at all locations, regardless of whether eligible employees work there.

Although many of the regulations regarding qualifying leave to family members of the Regular Armed Forces and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act were in effect as of their enactment dates (2008 and 2009) the final rule and subsequent updating of the 2013 FMLA posting include clarification of the rights of military families, caregivers to military veterans, and technical changes regarding the FMLA eligibility for airline flight crews and attendants.

The most recent changes to the FMLA include provisions for employees affected by a family member's National Guard or Reserve duties (in addition to those outlined for Regular Armed Forces members). These changes allow employees to use FMLA time to deal with the variety of extenuating circumstances that arise when a Guard or Reserve family member is deployed, including the ability to attend military events, make alternative financial, legal or child care arrangements, and allow for the attendance to counseling session or after-deployment briefings and reintegration.

Several of the regulations made in the final rule, including caregiver leave for a veteran, qualified leave for parental care, and the special calculation method for leave for flight crew will be effective starting March 8, 2013. However, the expansion of the qualifying leave to families of those serving in the Regular Armed Forces and the special eligibility hours of service requirement for flight crew employees were effective as of the enactment dates.

General notice requirements for the new FMLA rules mean covered employers must display the poster in plain view for all workers and applicants to see by no later than March 8th – even if the employer currently has no eligible employees.

Willful violation of this posting requirement can be assessed a civil monetary penalty of $110 for each separate offense.  Neglecting to follow the FMLA notice requirements can also amount to “interference with an individual’s FMLA rights” giving rise to private lawsuits and civil liability.

In addition to the posting requirements, covered employers must also provide the general notice of the same information contained in the poster, either in their employee handbooks or by distributing the information to new employees when hired.

DOL performed surveys of both employees and worksites in regard to FMLA in 1995, 2000 and 2012. With FMLA celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, as well as access to the accumulated data from these surveys, the possibility of further FMLA expansions is expected in the future. Staying on top of regulatory and posting requirements is a must for the savvy employer.