On Feb. 5, 2014, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced a Bill, that if passed, would extend both who is covered and what is covered under the Federal and Medical Leave Act.

Who:  Extending leave protections under the FMLA to employers with 25 or more employees, a lower threshold than the current 50 or more employee requirement.  Thus, the Bill would bring many small employers under the FMLA.

What is covered:  At this time, the FMLA entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.  The proposed expansion would allow employees to use leave for reasons that:

  1. Do not necessarily rise to the level of a serious health condition; or
  2. In some cases, are not medically related at all.
  3. The Bill proposes up to four additional hours of FMLA leave per month of unpaid Parental Involvement and Family Wellness, to participate in or attend activities sponsored by a school or community organization attended by an employee’s child or grandchild (i.e., parent/teacher conferences) and would also allow employees to use FMLA leave for routine family medical case, such as a medical or dental appointment for an employee’s spouse, child or grandchild.
  4. The Bill would require employees to provide at least seven days’ notice “or as much notice as is practicable” before taking such Parental Involvement and Family Wellness leave.

Given the current makeup of Congress, this Bill is not expected to advance this term. Employers, however, should not ignore these proposed FMLA updates.  The proposed Bill is significant because the FMLA has been amended before (i.e., FMLA Military Leave Expansions, several states have adapted many FMLA laws that are more generous than the federal statute), and the interest in “enhancing” the FMLA is not likely to disappear any time soon.  Small employers in particular should be keeping an eye out for FMLA amendments and educating themselves on FMLA compliance, including training their managers on managing FMLA leaves and communications.