President Rejects FMLA Expansion – For Now

January 2, 2008

Despite expectations to the contrary, on December 28, 2007, President Bush rejected legislation passed by Congress earlier this month that would have expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for the first time since it was enacted in 1993.  The legislation contained a provision entitling FMLA leave to qualified workers to care for wounded soldiers and to immediate family members of military reservists called to active duty.  We reported on this legislation in a December client alert. 

The FMLA amendment provision was part of a larger military defense bill, H.R. 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act.  In a “Memorandum of Disapproval,” the President stated that he was withholding his approval of the bill and using his power to “pocket veto” the bill, which means the bill would die without ever becoming law.  According to a statement issued by the White House, the President objected to provisions in the bill that would have allowed American victims of Saddam Hussein’s misdeeds to file suit against the Iraqi government and freeze Iraqi assets in U.S. banks while these lawsuits were pending.  These provisions “risk imposing financially devastating hardship on Iraq that will unacceptably interfere with the political and economic progress everyone agrees is critically important to bringing our troops home.” 

The President has indicated that he intends to work with Congress to modify the bill as soon as possible.  Because the President’s veto had nothing to do with the FMLA provision, it is possible that the legislation, as modified, could include a similar provision creating job-protected leave for families of U.S. service members.