HR Hotline: What Protections Does FMLA Give Trailing Military Spouses?
Q: An employee has requested a leave of absence to follow his spouse to another state for a four month military training deployment and is asking if this would be job-protected leave under FMLA. Is it?
A: Granting a personal leave of absence certainly seems like the right thing to do, but this would not be job-protected leave under FMLA or USERRA.
Nor would it fall under military caregiver FMLA leave—up to 26 weeks—where an employee needs time off to care for a covered service member who incurs an incapacitating serious injury or illness on active duty, or where a preexisting condition is aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty.
In addition, the requested leave would not be qualifying military FMLA exigency leave, available to the spouse of a service member for up to 12 weeks to address matters such as child care arrangements for a child of the deployed military member, attend certain military ceremonies and briefings, or make financial or legal arrangements to address the military member’s absence, where the service member/spouse is called to active duty in a foreign country.
There has been discussion in military management circles (but no solutions recommended thus far) about the difficulties faced by many trailing spouses of military members in seeking to sustain their own career paths—particularly where specific occupational licensing is required—when relocating to a temporary residence to be with their service member spouse.
One bright spot is that the trailing military spouse may be eligible for unemployment benefits upon presentation of documentation verifying the spouse’s mandatory military transfer to a distant location from which it is impractical to commute/retain employment.
And under Connecticut law, the employer’s account would not be charged with respect to any voluntary leaving such as this.
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