On November 14, 2008, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued its new final regulations implementing the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"). These regulations represent the first changes and additions to the regulations since they were first issued in 1995.

As previously noted in this space (see "Proposed FMLA Regulations Largely Disappointing for Employers"), the DOL had originally issued a set of proposed amended regulations on February 11, 2008, which had left the employment legal community wondering whether publication of final regulations could be completed before the end of the year. In a 752-page flourish (available in its entirety here: http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2008-26577_PI.pdf), the DOL kept its promise.

Although the final regulations largely retain the original February proposals related to leave for serious health conditions of employees and their family members, they contain a few employer-friendly clarifications and additions, along with practical forms for employers to use. These approved forms include new medical certifications (including now-separate forms for employees and family members), FMLA eligibility notices, and leave designation notices.

The DOL's final regulations also include the first long-awaited guidance on the January 2008 amendments to the FMLA statute (discussed here: " President Bush Expands Family and Medical Leave for Families of Servicemembers") pertaining to leave for military servicemembers and their families. The triggering definitions for "serious injury or illness of covered servicemembers" and "qualifying exigencies," which largely have been a mystery since the statutory amendments were enacted, have finally begun to reveal themselves.

The Employer Law Report will provide a complete review of the DOL's final regulations for the FMLA and their impact on employers in the near future.