Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Labor will conduct a study next year of how families use FMLA leave, as well as "information on regulatory changes, among other things."
Comment: In the past, DOL studies have been a precursor to regulatory changes. While there is no mandatory format, past FMLA studies have been a combination of surveys of significant FMLA stakeholders combined with public solicitations of comments. Interested parties should take this as a "heads-up" to begin to think about and prepare to address what you like about the current regulatory regime, and what you would like to see changed. The announcement also suggests that the DOL does not intend on making any regulatory changes before the upcoming mid-term elections this November, something of a surprise (at least to me).
The DOL administers Title I of the FMLA, which applies to non-civil service federal employees. Civil service federal employees are covered by Title II of the FMLA, which is administered by the OPM. By statute, OPM is required to craft FMLA regulations that generally follow the DOL's Title I FMLA regulations, with some wiggle room for differences. Moreover, the MSPB and other alphabet enforcement agencies have looked to Title I case law to interpret the often similar Title II OPM FMLA regulations. As such, it is important for agencies, unions, and employees covered by Title II of the FMLA to keep current on Title I FMLA developments.
Keep your eye on the ball (er, DOL study) and stay tuned folks!!