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Since 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act was established to help provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. It’s went through a series of changes, updates and growing pains over the years. FMLA also entitles eligible employees who work for a covered employer (50 employees or more) to leave and care for a family member who is a covered veteran with a “serious injury or illness”. FMLA leave for this purpose is called “military caregiver leave.” You can read more about the FMLA from our friends at the DOL by clicking here.
Knowing the Rules Behind the FMLA and Military Caregiver Leave
As an employer it’s important to understand all the rules regarding FMLA to prevent company-damaging lawsuits and frankly bad PR. According to the U.S. Department of Labor military caregiver leave allows an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered veteran with serious injury or illness to take up to a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to provide care for the veteran.
While payroll tracking and resources exist to help you track the number of FMLA used hours for compliance purposes, I remember the days where I used nothing more than an excel spreadsheet. I used a series of formulas and leave type codes to account for the 12 month rolling periods and hours tracking when it came to FMLA tracking.
Determining Serious Injury or Illness
A serious injury or illness means an injury or illness that was incurred by the covered veteran in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces or that existed before the veteran’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty, and that is either:
1. Continuation of a serious injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated when the veteran was a member of the Armed Forces and rendered the service member unable to perform the duties of the services member’s office, grade, rank, or rating; or
2. Physical or mental condition for which the veteran has received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Service-Related Disability Rating (VASRD) of 50 percent or greater, and the need for military caregiver leave is related to that condition; or
3. Physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the veteran’s ability to work because of a disability or disabilities related to military service, or would do so absent treatment; or
4. Injury that is the basis for the veteran’s enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.
Any of these definitions meets the FMLA’s definition of a serious injury or illness for a covered veteran regardless of whether the injury or illness manifested before or after the individual became a veteran.
As an employer it’s important to not only learn the benefits the federal government gives to veterans, but everything that’s covered under different U.S. regulations. FMLA is one of the biggest in the U.S. Department of Labor and understanding that you just can’t fire someone based on a medical emergency.
Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to learn the rules and regulations that all employers must adhere to in order to prevent federal action. This information and more can be found using the Fact Sheet #28M(b) of the U.S. Wage and Hour Division.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a leading voice in HR and workplace technology. She’s an author and founder of Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @jmillermerrell.