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Understanding FMLA Leave for a Family Member's Military Service

Denying leave in these instances can expose employers to legal liability

A family is sitting on a couch looking at a laptop.

Eligible employees may take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for a qualifying exigency while the employee's spouse, son, daughter or parent is on covered active duty or is called to covered active duty status, or has been notified of such, under 29 CFR § 825.126. Some examples are provided below:

  • Short-notice deployment—Addresses any issue arising from the military member notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty seven or fewer calendar days prior to deployment.
  • Military events and related activities—Official ceremonies, programs or events related to the call to or covered active duty status of the military member.
  • Childcare and school activities—To arrange for alternative child care, to provide childcare on an urgent immediate need basis (not regular basis), to enroll or transfer to a new school or daycare facility, to attend meetings with school or daycare staff, all due to circumstances arising from the call to or covered active duty status of the military member.
  • Financial and legal arrangements—To make or update financial or legal arrangements to address the military member's absence while on call to or covered active duty status, such as a will or legal trust, powers of attorney, transferring bank account signature authority or obtaining military identification cards.
  • Counseling—To attend counseling provided by someone other than a health care provider for oneself, the military member, or child of a military member (including a biological child, foster child, stepchild or legal ward) related to the call to or covered active duty status of the military member.
  • Rest and recuperation—To spend time with the military member who is on short-term, temporary or R&R leave during the period of deployment.
  • Post-deployment activities—To attend arrival ceremonies, reintegration briefings and events, and any other official ceremony or program for up to 90 days following the termination of the military members covered active duty status.
  • Parental care—To care for the parent of a military member who is incapable of self-care and who is the military member's biological, adoptive, step or foster parent, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the military member when under age 18.
  • Additional activities—To address other events that arise out of the military member's call to or covered active duty status, provided that an employer and employee agree that such leave shall qualify as an exigency.

The FMLA regulations describe these reasons in more detail. The U.S. Department of Labor's fact sheet on Qualifying Exigency Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act is also a good resource should questions arise.

When an employee requests FMLA leave based on qualifying exigencies, an employer should re-familiarize itself with these regulatory provisions to ensure the FMLA leave is properly granted.

Sheri L. Giger is a principal in the Pittsburgh office of law firm Jackson Lewis P.C., and a contributor to the firm's Disability, Leave & Health Management Blog. © 2019 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission.

Visit SHRM's resource page for the Family and Medical Leave Act


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