October 10 2009
Carrie L. Lukas
On November 17, 2008, the Department of Labor released rules related to implementing legislation that amended the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). That legislation addressed the treatment of military personnel and their families. While issuing regulations related to those new provisions, the Department of Labor also clarified the rules governing the FMLA overall.
Today, some groups are encouraging Congress to rescind the regulations that clarified how the FMLA is to be implemented, suggesting that the new rules are overly burdensome to employees. Legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to that end, yet the Department of Labor's clarifications were a necessary step to making it easier for employers and employees to know their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA, and to reduce disputes related to the use of family and medical leave.
In general, employment contracts, including the amount of leave that employees should be entitled to and under what circumstances, should not be dictated by the federal government, but negotiated by the employee and employer. However, if the federal government is going to restrict employment contracts, it should seek to create clarity about the rules in order to discourage wasteful litigation and abuse of the system by both employers and employees.