Enhanced Family and Medical Leave Bill Afoot in Congress

Legislation has been introduced in Congress this month that would greatly expand the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

H.R. 1440 — the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2011 — was introduced on April 8, 2011 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from the 14th District of New York (Manhattan and Queens).

If adopted, many more employers would face the necessity of permitting leave for employees to attend to personal family and medical matters, including things like school plays and related activities.

Now, most employers that I represent take a reasonable, common sense approach to allowing their employees to go to their kids’ school plays and such.  But mandating that employers do so as a matter of federal law? Sounds like overreaching, doesn’t it?

As most employers know, the FMLA is intended to allow employees to take unpaid leave (up to 12 weeks in most cases) for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, or for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition. The so-called Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2011 (FMLEA) would amend the FMLA to allow employees to take off from work to participate in or attend their kid’s and grandkid’s school and extracurricular activities, and for other purposes.

Under the bill, employers would be required to allow an eligible employee to:

  1. participate in or attend an activity that is sponsored by a school or community organization and relates to a program of the school or organization that is attended by a son or daughter or a grandchild of the employee; or
  2. meet routine family medical care needs, including for medical and dental appointments of the employee or a son, daughter, spouse, or grandchild of the employee, or to attend to the care needs of elderly individuals who are related to the eligible employee, including visits to nursing homes and group homes.

One sign that the drafters of this bill have not completely taken leave of their senses is that the bill would limit FMLEA leave to no more than 4 hours during any 30-day period, and no more than 24 hours of leave during any 12-month period.

One other major change to existing law would be that the FMLEA would apply to all private employers with 25 or more employees (currently the FMLA applies to private employers with 50 or more employees).

From the employer’s perspective, given the Republican-controlled House, the prospects of passage of H.R. 1440 are not favorable, to say the least.  Whew….