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Impact of New Federal FMLA Regulations on School Boards

Recently the United States Department of Labor promulgated new regulations under the Family Medical Leave Act. School boards should review their policies to assure continued compliance with the FMLA.

Noteworthy highlights from the new regulations include:

(1)       Military caregiver leave: Expands FMLA protections for family members caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty. These family members are able to take up to 26 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

(2)       Qualifying exigency leave: The law allows families of National Guard and Reserve personnel on active duty to take FMLA job-protected leave to manage their affairs — “qualifying exigencies.”

(3)       Employer notice obligations: The final rule clarifies and strengthens the employer notice requirements to employees in order that employers will better inform employees about their FMLA rights and obligations, and allow for a smoother exchange of information between employers and employees.

(4)       Employee notice obligations: Under the new regulations, employees must follow their employer’s normal call-in procedures when taking FMLA leave. Under current rules, employees may notify their employer up to two days after an absence on their need for FMLA leave.

(5)       Medical certification process: The final rule recognizes the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and its impact on medical privacy. Responding to concerns about medical privacy, the new provisions prohibit direct supervisors from obtaining employee medical information for FMLA certification.

(6)       Light duty: Time spent in “light duty” work does not count against an employee’s FMLA leave entitlement, and the employee retains the right to job restoration during the light duty period.

This is the first revision of the Act since it was passed in 1993, but will likely pave the way for a better understanding of the Act for employers, and more adequate communication between school boards and their employees.