The Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible letter carriers up to 12 weeks of leave each postal leave year, for:
- A new child in the family—by birth, by adoption or by placement in foster care;
- Caring for a family member with a serious health condition;
- The employee's own serious health condition that prevents him or her from performing the job, or
- Qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that employee’s family member is on or has been notified of “covered active duty” in the Armed Forces.
The FMLA also guarantees eligible letter carriers up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a “covered servicemember” with a “serious injury or illness” if that servicemember is their spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.
The FMLA guarantees time off, whether paid or unpaid. The type of leave taken depends on the reasons for the leave, an employee's earnings and the usual postal leave regulations. There are eligibility criteria, medical certification guidelines and other detailed rules governing letter carrier rights to FMLA leave.
This page links to useful NALC materials, federal regulations and information on the Web about the FMLA.
Update: Two national-level disputes involving FMLA settled
In 2008, the Postal Service proposed changes to the Employee and Labor Relations Manual which required employees to only use Department of Labor forms to certify FMLA protection.
The NALC took the position that there was no requirement under the FMLA to use Department of Labor forms and initiated two disputes. The first dispute was over the proposed ELM changes and the second was the over the Postal Service’s refusal to allow employees to use NALC FMLA forms.
In our first dispute over the proposed changes of the ELM, the Postal Service agreed to change the language in section 515 of the ELM (M-01812) to allow employees to use another format other than Department of Labor forms to certify FMLA protection.
The change in section 515 of the ELM resolves NALC's second issue and employees may now use the NALC FMLA forms for FMLA protection. (M-01817)
Click here for the new NALC FMLA forms.
In the past, employees submitted FMLA forms to their supervisors. The new forms must be submitted to the FMLA Administration Human Resources Share Service Center (HRSSC). The address for the HRSSC to which the employee must submit the FMLA form(s) can be found on the area maps included in the NALC FMLA forms PDF.
Changes to FMLA Regulations: DOL Expands Military FMLA Leave
On February 6, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act by issuing a new Final Rule that implements important expansions of FMLA military family leave protections mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2010. These expansions provide families of eligible veterans with the same job-protected FMLA leave currently available to families of military service members and also enable more military families to take leave for activities that arise when a service member is deployed.
The major provisions of the Final Rule include:
- Defining a covered veteran, consistent with statutory limitations, as limited to veterans discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable five years prior to the date the employee’s military caregiver leave begins.
- Creating a flexible definition for serious injury or illness of a covered veteran, that includes four alternatives only one of which must be met.
- Permitting eligible employees to obtain certification of a servicemember’s serious injury or illness (both current servicemembers and veterans) from any health care provider as defined in the FMLA regulations, not only those affiliated with the DOD, VA, or TRICARE networks (as was permitted under the 2009 regulations).
- Extending qualifying exigency leave to eligible employees who are family members of members of the Regular Armed Forces and adding the requirement for all military members to be deployed to a foreign country in order to be on “covered active duty” under the FMLA.
- Increasing the amount of time an employee may take for qualifying exigency leave related to the military member’s Rest and Recuperation (R&R) leave from five days to up to 15 days.
- Creating an additional qualifying exigency leave category for parental care leave to provide care necessitated by the covered active duty of the military member for the military member’s parent who is incapable of self-care (this exigency came as the result of a suggestion from the NALC, see "The 'NALC Exigency'" below).
The "NALC Exigency"
When the Department of Labor (DOL) published the new Final Rule for the FMLA on February 6, 2013, it acknowledged and incorporated changes suggested by the NALC.
The DOL announced its proposed rulemaking for the new Final Rule in February of 2012. It specifically sought input from FMLA stakeholders regarding the two categories of military family leave (qualifying exigency leave and military caregiver leave). The NALC at the national level sent out queries to each region seeking suggestions on how the two categories of military family leave could be improved.
President Rolando incorporated suggestions from around the country in a letter he wrote to the DOL in response to the proposed rulemaking (M-01780). Excerpts from that letter appear many times in the section-by-section analysis in the preamble that precedes the actual regulations. And in one instance, the DOL actually created new regulations in response to President Rolando’s letter.
In the proposed rulemaking, the DOL invited comments on whether new qualifying exigencies should be added to the current 8. In the preamble to the new Final Rule, the DOL states that it received only one suggestion: from the NALC.
Based on that suggestion, the DOL created a 9th exigency for parental care leave to provide care necessitated by the covered active duty of a military member for the military member’s parent who is incapable of self-care. It is codified at 29 CFR 825.126.b(8).
The suggestion for the new exigency for eldercare came from a discussion at a branch meeting of Branch 183 in Santa Rosa, California. Branch President Jerry Anderson forwarded the suggestion to the National Union via Region 1 RAA Brian Voigt and NBA Christopher Jackson. President Rolando added the suggestion from Branch 183 to his letter to the DOL.
The creation of a qualifying exigency leave for eldercare not only benefits letter carriers who serve or who have family members who serve in the military, it also protects the family needs of every military service member in the country.
It’s also a good example of how the NALC works at both the local and national level to protect its members and influence legislation.
Update: DOL clarifies the definition of “son and daughter”
On June 22, 2010, the DOL in an Administrator’s Interpretation clarified the definition of "son and daughter" under the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship:
“It is the Administrator’s interpretation that the regulations do not require an employee who intends to assume the responsibilities of a parent to establish that he or she provides both day-to-day care and financial support in order to be found to stand in loco parentis to a child. For example, where an employee provides day-to-day care for his or her unmarried partner’s child (with whom there is no legal or biological relationship) but does not financially support the child, the employee could be considered to stand in loco parentis to the child and therefore be entitled to FMLA leave to care for the child if the child had a serious health condition… Similarly, an employee who will share equally in the raising of an adopted child with a same sex partner, but who does not have a legal relationship with the child, would be entitled to leave to bond with the child following placement, or to care for the child if the child had a serious health condition, because the employee stands in loco parentis to the child.”
According to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, "No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill. No one who steps in to parent a child when that child's biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian. No one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent.” Click here to read the Administrator’s Interpretation from the DOL website.
The USPS has centralized its FMLA Coordinator position at Shared Services. Attached is a list of addresses and fax numbers by USPS Area where letter carriers should send their certification forms.
If you have issues or questions regarding the FMLA please contact your National Business Agent for assistance.
|Description of FMLA Material
|FMLA at U.S. Department of Labor - The Department of Labor's FMLA website has a wealth of useful information and links to advice, forms, the latest regulations and more.
|ELM Section 515 - Section 515 of the USPS Employee and Labor Relations Manual contains the USPS regulations covering FMLA rights (ELM Chapter 510).
The ELM can be found here.
|FMLA Regulations - Current FMLA Regulations from the Federal Register (Vol. 78, No. 25, 8834 et seq., February 6, 2013); also published as 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 825.
Cautionary Note on FMLA Regulations: Please note that laws and regulations change. For the latest information about FMLA and changes to the FMLA regulations, see the U.S. Department of Labor's FMLA website..