Act Would Permit Leave to Attend School Functions, Extracurricular Activities, Medical Appointments

A bill that would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for both private and federal employees was introduced last week. The Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 824) would amend the FMLA to allow employees to take time off from work to participate in their children’s or grandchildren’s school or community organization activities (such as parent/teacher conferences, scouting or sports events), attend regular medical/dental appointments, or attend to the needs of an elderly relative, such as visiting them in a nursing home. Perhaps more importantly, this act would expand who would be considered an employee “eligible” to take FMLA leave. Under this legislation, the FMLA would apply to employers with 25 or more employees within the prescribed radius, not 50 as is the current law. This expanded definition would greatly increase the number of employers that would be impacted by this law.

An employee eligible to take parental involvement or family wellness leave under this bill would be permitted to take up to 4 hours of leave in any 30-day period, not to exceed 24 hours during any 12-month period. This leave is in addition to other types of permissible leave. An employee may elect – or an employer may require – the substitution of any accrued paid vacation leave, personal leave, or family leave for parental involvement and family wellness leave. In order to take this leave, an employee must provide the employer with at least 7 days’ notice or as much as is practicable. An employer may require certification related to such leave.

This bill also contains a section granting the same leave benefits for federal employees.

Similar bills have been introduced in recent years, to no avail. The Time for Schools Act, Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act – all of which contain provisions similar to the act at issue – have been introduced in some shape or form since 2005. The Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2009 may gain greater headway, however, given the new composition of Congress and as President Obama has expressed his commitment to push for more workplace flexibility.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.