Is Congress poised to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act again? Late last month, legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow employees who work part-time or for small employers up to two weeks of leave in connection with a family member’s military deployment, thereby expanding the qualifying exigency provisions of the FMLA.
Currently, FMLA leave (for military family leave or otherwise) is only available to employees who work 1,250 hours in a 12-month period and who work for an employer with 50 or more employees. But not under this proposed legislation. The Military Family Leave Act of 2013 would allow employees (regardless of hours worked or who they work for) to take up to two workweeks of leave in any 12-month period if their family member: 1) is notified of an impending call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation; or 2) is deployed in connection with a contingency operation. [Oh no! The return of the "contingency operation" language! Didn't we get rid of that language several years ago?] For those keeping track at home, a “contingency operation” is a military operation that involves or may involve military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force, or one that results in a call to active duty during a war or national emergency.
What's at least initially interesting about this bill (and which makes it different than the other bills seeking to amend the FMLA) is that it already has 25 co-sponsors and some bipartisan support. Still, govtrack.us gives it a 4% chance of even getting out of a House committee. (Not sure how they come up with this seemingly unscientific percentage, so I'm not sure of its value.)
Lead sponsor, Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), stated in a press release that enacting this legislation "is the least we can do to ensure that the needs of all military families are met, regardless of their employment situation . . . [and] also respects the challenges faced by small businesses.
Will the legislation ever see the light of day after being referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs? In what might seem to be a bill with broad popular appeal, it would be the first of its kind to cover employers regardless of size and employees regardless of hours worked. Might it be the first among several bills to broaden FMLA rights in President Obama's second term?