Employers in Connecticut and nationwide need to be aware of a new labor law posting requirement, the Military Family Leave notice.
Prior to President George W. Bush signing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on January 28, 2008, FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leave was available only to care for a parent, son or spouse, and only for 12 weeks.
The 2008 NDAA includes a provision to expand FMLA for military families from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The new law also expands the definition of family to include in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles.
As a result, when a member of the National Guard, Reserve or active military id is under medical care, that person’s family is eligible to take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave to care for him or her. Conditions included in the law are outpatient treatments, therapy (physical or mental), and temporary disability resulting from illness or injury.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, when a member of the military is called to active duty, the expanded FMLA also allows the family member to act as a substitute for anyone in that soldier’s care. Under the new rules, a soldier’s “next of kin” can take FMLA to care for him or her, even when that next-of-kin may be an uncle, aunt or cousin.
Although the 2008 NDAA went into effect immediately, the detailed regulations haven’t been issued. The Secretary of Labor asks companies to grant leave to eligible families in an “act of good faith” until the finalized regulations are published.
With the new law, the U. S. Department of Labor mandates that all companies display the new Military Family Leave poster immediately. The poster should be placed in a permanent position that is visible to all workers. The Wage and Hour Division enforces this law. Employers that fail to comply will be subject to penalties.
More Connecticut Military Family Leave Notice
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993. This ground-breaking federal law allowed a worker with a serious illness to take off up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Also, upon return, the employer had to give the worker the same job, or another position with comparable working conditions, salary, benefits and duties.
Prior to the FMLA, an employee who fell ill could easily lose his or her job. Each case was handled individually, and policy for handling these cases varied among companies. Often, if a worker missed more than a couple of weeks, the employer terminated him or her.
The FMLA changed that, but not for every employer and employee in the United States. Some eligibility requirements must first be met before taking or granting FMLA leave. First, the company must have 50 or more workers within a 75 mile radius of the work site. Second, the employee must have worked for that company for 12 consecutive months, and logged at least 1,250 hours.
Once eligible, the worker can take FMLA leave for himself, to care for an ill spouse, parent or child. Employees can also take FMLA leave to care for a newborn child, a child newly adopted, or a child under age 18 that’s newly fostered.
Until 2008, the FMLA remained the same. The recent signing of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) on January 28, 2008, will expand FMLA leave, but regulations are yet to be finalized. Once the U. S. Department of Labor publishes the final regulations, the changes in the NDAA will become law.
A few changes to the FMLA were published on February 11, 2008. These changes update the certification process, and expand the time employers have to notify workers of their FMLA rights.
On of these revisions is major. Previously, an employee could take FMLA leave without giving advance notice. The new regulations will require employees to follow their company’s standard practices regarding taking leave, which usually means the worker must advise the employer of his or her absence, prior to the beginning to the shift.
The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a series of changes to the FMLA rules.
The changes, which will affect Connecticut employers, were announced February 11, 2008. Employers may comment on the changes until April 11, 2008, after which the new rules take effect.
To add comments, click this link and enter keywords “Family and Medical Leave Act,” including the quotation marks. It is important for employers to realize that all contact information they include will be available for viewing by the public.
Among the changes to FMLA are one that would broaden the scope for “substitution of paid leave for FMLA,” and another that would allow employers to count FMLA leave as absent time when awarding “perfect attendance” certificates and bonuses.
The second seems relatively unimportant but answers a longstanding complaint. In the old rules, an employer could not count FMLA leave as part of a worker’s absences.
Both employers and coworkers objected that some workers got “perfect attendance awards” and occasionally even bonuses, despite the fact that they had taken all or part of their 12 weeks of FMLA leave. The new regulations allow employers to evaluate an employee’s attendance record by treating FMLA leave like any other absence.
Regarding the changes to “substitution of paid leave,” the Act says employers do not need to pay workers on FMLA leave. The statute does, however permit employees to take accrued paid sick time concurrently with FMLA. Employers may in turn require workers to take sick time concurrently with FMLA.
Under the proposed new regulations, employees could use accrued vacation, personal leave, and paid time off (PTO) as part of FMLA leave, provided they meet their employer’s criteria. The employer may, in turn, require employees to use all types of accrued paid time off as part of the FMLA leave.
Currently, a worker who accumulated 2 weeks of sick time, 3 weeks of personal leave, and 5 weeks of vacation time (a total of 10) may only use the 2 weeks of sick time as FMLA. Under the changes, he or she could use all 10 paid weeks off as part of FMLA.
More Connecticut FMLA Changes
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees a worker the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave yearly if he or she has a “serious medical condition,” or if a member of the immediate family has one.
One of the definitions of “serious medical condition” (it is only one of 6 definitions) requires more than 3 consecutive days of incapacity plus “two visits to a health care provider.”
The law provides no definition, however, for “two visits.” It could be 2 in a month or 2 in a year. The Tenth Circuit Court ruled on one occasion that the two visits must take place during the 3 days of incapacity.
New proposed changes to the FMLA would clarify the rule. The 2 visits must take place within 30 days of the incapacity.
This is just one of many proposed changes to the FMLA regulations published by the U.S. Labor Department on February 11, 2008. There will be a public comment on the proposals until April 11. At that time, the proposals will be published as final, and employers must then comply with them as law.
Several of the changes proposed would address this concept of “serious health condition” and a condition’s medical certification.
Other rulings include consideration of the “Ragsdale” decision on employer penalties, a decision that light duty does not count as FMLA leave, and the guarantee of an employee’s right to settle FMLA cases out of court. The changes would allow the substitution of paid leave if an employee qualifies, and it would permit employers to withhold “Perfect Attendance Awards” to workers who have taken FMLA leave. They would also make changes to the “fitness-for-duty” certification to return to the job.
“It’s time to update these regulations,” said Victoria Lipnic of the U.S. Labor Department, “to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
She noted as well that the proposals follow “a thoughtful, careful process that included a Request for Information with 15,000 public comments in 2006, many conversations with stakeholders, and the department’s experience in administering and enforcing the law.”
Most U.S. employers require that employees schedule vacations in advance using vacation request forms. The form provides an objective record of the dates the employee is requesting off, and when they made the request. Many employers can only approve a few vacation requests for a particular week, to ensure that their businesses are adequately staffed.
Vacation request forms are critical for U. S. employers who provide their employees with paid or unpaid time off. They’re a great way to keep track of approved vacations and prevent disagreements between employees regarding who requested a holiday week off first.
The vacation request forms allow employers to track employee vacation requests. A vacation calendar is also convenient, to get an overview of staffing.
U.S. law does not require paid vacation time. The Fair Labor Standards Act, which established minimum wage and overtime provisions, includes no mention of vacation or holiday time. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Employers don’t have to pay employees for time off.”
In fact, U.S. employers don’t even have to offer unpaid vacation time. Vacation policies are strictly voluntary for employers, but many offer it as a benefit to attract and keep top quality employees.
If employers do offer vacation pay, then they must apply the vacation rules fairly, based on the employee handbook or written policies. Employers who administer vacation policies unfairly run the risk of lawsuits by disgruntled employees.
Some employers choose to shut down operations entirely for a week or longer, giving every employee vacation at the same time. This is most common in restaurants and factories, but may occur in other businesses such as a dental practice. In a few states, including New Hampshire, employees who are forced to take unpaid time off during such a closure are entitled to unemployment insurance. On the other hand, the state of Georgia specifically prohibits employees in unpaid vacation closures from collecting unemployment insurance payments.
Connecticut, known as The Constitution State, was the fifth of the original 13 colonies. Established in 1788, the state has sprouted many industries and inventions. From the PEZ® Candy factory in Orange, the first telephone book in New Haven or the first steel mill in America which was located in Simsbury, Connecticut has never been without industry and invention.
As for workers, Connecticut allows employers to decide whether or not they pay their workers holiday pay. Holiday pay is usually agreed upon at the time of employment. State workers, however, are granted holiday pay for federal holidays and two days which are deemed holidays by the governor. These two holidays are Lincoln’s Birthday and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter). The other legal holidays are as follows: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Lincoln Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day and Christmas Day.
Whenever holidays fall on a weekend, the holiday is given on the previous or following day. For instance, a holiday which falls on a Saturday is celebrated, for the purposes of work, on the previous Friday. A holiday falling on a Sunday would be celebrated on the following Monday.
If an employee needs help resolving a problem with his employer, he can contact the Wage and Workplace Standards Division, a division of the Connecticut Department of Labor. The WWSD “promotes prosperity and stability in the workplace.” To this end, they make sure employees receive any benefits due them by enforcing the laws of the workplace. They also help employers comply with the law through educational programs and materials.
With about 1,800 civilians employed in the state, an unemployment rate of 4.3% as of July, 2006, is about at the middle- to low-end of the spectrum. This number of employees does not include the military members stationed and living in Connecticut at any given time.