Congress may expand FMLA to include certain bereavement leave

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a federal law, entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to twelve workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for:

  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition; and
  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

Earlier this month, Senator John Tester (MT-D) introduced a bill that would amend the FMLA to provide leave because of the death of a son or daughter.

Details on this bill and what it would mean for employers after the jump…

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The bill is called the Parental Bereavement Act. You can find a copy of it here.

Jeff Nowak, over at FMLA Insights shares the touching background to this amendment:

The initiative is led by Kelly Farley and Barry Kluger, both of whom lost children at a very young age. Realizing that he could not take FMLA-protected leave upon his daughter’s death (because it is not provided for under the FMLA), Farley instead submitted FMLA paperwork seeking leave to care for his wife, who was dealing with depression in the aftermath of the tragic event. In reality, he suggests, he needed leave to care for himself.

Will it pass? Best guess is not in this Congress, especially considering: (1) the other pressing items that are one Congress’ plate and; (2) and a Republican majority controls the U.S. House of Representatives.

What would it mean for employers if it did pass? Not much considering that small employers (those with under 50 employees) are not covered under the FMLA, and many larger employers already offer bereavement leave / paid time off. Employees who need more leave than is typically afforded under a typical bereavement leave policy may have a “serious health condition” (e.g., depression) and qualify for “traditional” FMLA anyway.

What about the risk of employee abuse? Hell awaits.