Year-End Review of New Employment Laws
by Michael C. Petersen
There have been several important changes to federal and state laws in 2013 that impact employers. This article summarizes many of those changes.
1. Final Regulations for military leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act
Earlier in 2013, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued its final regulations addressing two types of military leave allowed by the Family Medical Leave Act: (1) qualifying exigency leave; and (2) military caregiver leave.
Qualifying exigency leave allows employees up to twelve weeks off from work when a spouse, child, or parent has been called to covered active duty or is already on covered active duty. Qualifying exigencies for which leave can be used include short-notice deployments, military events and activities, child care and school activities, financial and legal arrangements, counseling, rest and recuperation, post-deployment activities, and parental care.
Military caregiver leave allows employees to have up to twenty-six weeks off from work when a son, daughter, parent, or next of kin is a covered service member and has a serious injury or illness.
With regard to qualifying exigency leave, the DOL final regulations do the following:
1. They expand the definition of “covered military member” for qualifying exigency leave to include not only members of the reserves and National Guard, but also members of the Regular Armed Forces.
2. They clarify that “covered active duty” requires a deployment to a foreign country.
3. They add a qualifying exigency to provide parental care. To obtain time off for parental care, the parent must be incapable of self-care. That type of leave is limited to: (a) taking time off to arrange for alternative care when the active duty care of the military member necessitates a change in the existing care arrangements; (b) providing care for the parent on an urgent, immediate need basis (but not on a routine daily basis); (c) admitting a parent to a care facility; or (d) attending meetings with the staff of a care facility.
With regard to military caregiver leave, the final regulations do the following:
1. They expand the definition of service member to include veterans who are undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness.
2. They expand the definition of serious injury or illness to include injuries or illnesses that existed before the start of active duty but were aggravated by the active duty service.
All employers who have more than 50 employees are subject to FMLA. These employers should revise their employee handbooks to include the new final DOL regulations.
2. Bereavement Leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act
The Oregon legislature recently passed a law allowing employees to take time off from work to deal with the death of a family member by attending the funeral (or other alternative), to make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member, or to grieve under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). OFLA applies only to employers with 25 or more employees.
Under the new law, employees are allowed to take up to two weeks of OFLA leave for bereavement purposes for the death of each family member within a one year period. Employees must complete the leave within 60 days of the date on which they received notice of the death of a family member. This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2014. We recommend that all employers subject to OFLA revise their written policies to incorporate this new type of allowable leave.
3. Veterans Day Holiday for Veterans
The Oregon legislature recently passed a law requiring all Oregon employers to allow qualifying veterans time off work for Veterans Day. Employers are free to choose whether the time off is with or without pay. For purposes of the new law, qualifying veterans are employees who generally served a prolonged period of active duty or at least one day in a combat zone and were discharged from the service under honorable conditions or due to a service-connected disability.
Qualifying veterans who want time off work for Veterans Day are required to give their employers at least 21 calendar days’ notice that they intend to take the holiday. Employers must respond to that notice at least 14 calendar days before the holiday. Employers who would experience significant economic or operational disruption or undue hardship can lawfully deny the request for time off. However, employers must allow qualifying veterans who were denied time off for Veterans Day to have another single day off in that same calendar year.
This new law is already in effect. Again, we recommend that employers revise their employee handbooks to recognize this new leave entitlement.
4. Summaries of Protected Leave Due to Domestic Violence, Harassment, Sexual Assault or Stalking
The Oregon legislature passed a law that requires all covered employers to maintain and post in a conspicuous location summaries of the law that allows protected leave from work for domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking (ORS 659A.270 to ORS 659A.285). That law takes effect January 1, 2014. Employers may obtain the summaries from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries Website (www.oregon.gov/boli).