Welcome to 2010!

Here we are on the brink of another decade with lots of promise, hope and regulation! Some of the most prevalent changes you need to know for 2010 include:

  • FMLA amended to expand Military Family Leave
  • States Ban Cell or Severely Restrict Usage
  • Jury Awards skyrocket in 2008
  • Department of Labor Announces Goals for 2010
  • New IRS Mileage Rates for 2010
  • COBRA Subsidy Extended

This is the first of a 3 part series detailing the new legislation outlined above.

FMLA Expanded

FMLA has been amended to expand Military Family Leave. If you have 50+ employees within a 75 mile radius, you’re covered by the provisions of FMLA. President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010 (HR 2647) into law on October 28, 2009. This act further expands the military provisions of FMLA mandating exigency leave for family members of all covered active-duty service members and expands the military care giver provision to family members of certain former service members extending the 26 weeks of leave to family members of veterans for up to 5 years after a veteran leaves service, if he/she develops a service related illness or injury incurred or aggravated while on active duty, i.e. traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 (NDAA) amended the FMLA on January 28, 2008 to provide a new entitlement for up to 12 weeks of leave for the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of a person on or about to be on active military duty for any “qualifying exigency”. The NDAA also amended the FMLA to provide caregiver leave to employees caring for wounded service members. The amendment provided an eligible employee, defined as a spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member up to 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during one 12-month period to care for a wounded service member.

States Ban or Limit Cell Phone Use and/or Texting While Driving

Several states, including Tennessee, have enacted new laws restricting cell phone use while driving. In more and more cases employers are being sued for damages incurred in accidents caused by employees talking on cell phones while driving. For example, in Virginia, a law firm settled a suit for an undisclosed amount after being sued for $25 million following an accident where one of their attorneys hit and killed a 15 year old girl walking along the side of the road. The attorney was talking to a client on her cell phone while driving when the accident occurred. In Arkansas, a lumber wholesaler paid $16.2 million dollars to a woman who was severely disabled following a car accident involving an employee talking on his cell phone.

The following bans are in place:

  • States banning text messaging for all drivers: OR, UT, CO, AK, NH, MD
  • States banning both hand-held cell phone use and texting while driving: WA, CA, NY, CT, NJ
  • States than ban text messaging for all drivers and hand-held cell phone use for bus drivers only: MN, IL, AR, LA, TN, NC, VA
  • States that ban hand-held cell phone use for bus drivers ONLY: AZ, TX, KY, GA, MA, DE, RI

Stay tuned for more information on skyrocketing jury awards and the DOLs 2010 goals – will you be ready?