After passing the first-ever amendments to the FMLA, Congress left Washington in late December confident that President Bush would sign off on the provision, which was included in the massive defense appropriations bill.
But a funny thing happened to the National Defense Authorization Act on its way down Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush administration attorneys noticed an obscure piece of legislative minutia in the bill that had escaped scrutiny—wording that the White House said might expose the current Iraqi government to legal liability and monetary damages for acts committed by the former government of Saddam Hussein.
So the president declined to sign it, exercising the executive right to “pocket veto” legislation forwarded to the White House after Congress has adjourned. That means the bill won’t become law.
At least for a few more days.
Congress begins its 2008 session on Jan. 15, and both Democratic and Republican leaders say a new version of H.R. 1585 (minus the Iraqi lawsuit language) will be their first order of business. The bill passed last year with overwhelmingly bipartisan support, and no one appears eager to tamper anew with last year’s legislation. Swift passage and signing are expected.
Theamendments in the bill would expand employees’ in two key areas:
- Families of injured military personnel. Employers must offer up to 26 weeks of unpaid each 12-month period to employees caring for family members wounded in the course of military duty.
- Families of reservist call-ups. Employers must grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave to immediate family members of reservists and members of the National Guard who are called to active duty in the U.S. armed forces. Service members need not be deployed overseas to trigger eligibility for the 12 weeks of leave. The amendment applies to qualifying situations "arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of an employee is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed Forces….”
Now would be a good time to review your leave policies and consult an attorney about the implications for your organization.