Vanderbilt Law Review


Shay E. Zeemer

First Page



The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA" or "the Act"), an act that extends twelve weeks leave to employees for certain medical and family situations, seemed like a panacea for the everyday battles employees face in balancing work and family needs.' At last, the Act's supporters thought, an employee can take time off to care for a loved one, or have a child, and return to find his or her job intact. In the eight years since its enactment, how- ever, the FMLA finds employees and employers alike disillusioned, uncertain about rights and obligations, and still fighting to balance work and family needs by being forced to follow the FMLA's complex procedures. Furthermore, the FMLA and accompanying regulations provide attorneys and judges with a great deal of confusion in reconciling seemingly conflicting provisions.

This Term, the Supreme Court will hear its first case ever under the FMLA and will hopefully give employers, employees, and lower courts needed guidance on interpreting the delicate balance between business and families that Congress sought to achieve. Currently, several U.S. circuit courts disagree over the validity of a Department of Labor ("DOL") regulation promulgated to preserve employees' rights upon taking FMLA leave ("29 C.F.R. ? 825.208(c)"). The regulation requires that employers designate qualifying leave as "FMLA leave" at the beginning of the leave period. If an employer fails to notify employees of the FMLA designation, none of the absence preceding proper notice counts toward the employee's twelve-week entitlement under the FMLA. As a result, without proper notice regarding designation of leave as "FMLA leave," an employee could receive more than twelve weeks total leave.