Thursday, December 3, 2009
A bill intended to close a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) loophole for airline pilots and flight attendants is one step closer to becoming law. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act by voice vote. Last month, the Senate approved the Act. Assuming President Obama signs this bill into law, more flight crew members will qualify for FMLA leave.
Presently, employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months, which amounts to at least 60 percent of a standard 40-hour workweek. This method of calculation impacts pilots and flight attendants, whose time spent on the job between flights or on mandatory standby does not count as “hours worked” pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is used to calculate the requisite number of hours for FMLA purposes. The House-approved bill will clarify that the hours pilots or flight attendants work or for which they are paid -- not just those spent in flight -- count toward the minimum hours calculation. So, if a pilot, for example, had worked or been paid for 60 percent of the applicable monthly guarantee, or the equivalent amount annualized over the preceding 12-month period, and if she or he had worked or been paid for at least 504 hours during the previous 12-month period, she or he would be eligble to take FMLA leave.
During floor consideration of the Senate bill, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who introduced the legislation, said:
This bill reflects the intent of the FMLA’s original sponsors to provide an alternative way to include flight crews that addresses the airline industry's unique time-keeping methods. I am proud that the Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act fixes a technical problem that has left many full-time flight crew members ineligible for family medical leave for many years due to the unique way their work hours are calculated.