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Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) / Sick Leave

Why Employers Care

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted in 1993, guarantees that people who work for companies with more than 50 employees can take up to 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave per year under certain circumstances. These instances include caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, caring for certain seriously ill family members, or recovering from one's own serious health condition. In November of 2008 the Department of Labor (DoL) issued rules in response to court decisions over a number of years that have invalidated some of the original regulations implementing the FMLA. These changes to the regulations also clarify the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees under FMLA. The rules reflect some, but not all of the suggestions that the National Business Group on Health and our employer members have made to the DoL in comment letters, meetings with DoL staff, and in response to a DoL request for information in April of 2008.

Employers consistently rank FMLA at the top of the list when asked what the most onerous federal regulations are. California became the first state to provide paid leave for FMLA in 2004 and Washington State enacted a similar law in 2007.

The Department of Labor issued rules to clarify FMLA, particularly notice requirements, and Congress has held hearings on this and on expanding FMLA. A number of states including: California, The District of Columbia, New Jersey and Washington have enacted laws mandating paid leave.

The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act NDAA expanded military caregiver leave under the FMLA to allow care of a veteran with a serious injury or illness who is receiving medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, if the veteran was a member of the Armed Forces at any time during the 5-year period preceding the date of the medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy. The 2010 NDAA also expanded the definition of “serious injury or illness” to include an injury or illness that results from a preexisting condition. The Department of Labor (DOL) in February of 2013 issued final regulations clarifying rules for calculating intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave. These regulations also implement FMLA provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (2010 NDAA) and the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA).

A longtime proponent of paid family medical leave, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced in 2013 that he will not run for a sixth term in 2014. In December of 2013 Senator Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. Some states (CA, NJ and RI) and cities (Connecticut, Seattle, WA Philadelphia, PA, Portland, OR, Jersey City, NJ; and New York City, NY) have enacted paid sick leave requirements for certain employees.

What Can Employers Do?

The National Business Group on Health is a member of the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave, a broad-based, non-partisan group of employers, human resource professionals, companies and organizations working to ease the administrative burden of FMLA. For more information or to join this coalition, employers can contact

Members of the National Business Group on Health can also voice their concerns to the Business Group's public policy team and by responding to public policy opportunities to comment on proposed regulations, contact Congress and/or the Administration, testify, or participate in related activities.

Relevant Tools and Resources Include:

Page last updated: January 29, 2014

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