AIRLINE FLIGHT CREW TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS ACT; Congressional Record Vol. 155, No. 26
(House of Representatives - February 09, 2009)

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[Pages H1053-H1055]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




             AIRLINE FLIGHT CREW TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS ACT

  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
pass the bill (H.R. 912) to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 
1993 to clarify the eligibility requirements with respect to airline 
flight crews.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                H.R. 912

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Airline Flight Crew 
     Technical Corrections Act''.

     SEC. 2. LEAVE REQUIREMENT FOR AIRLINE FLIGHT CREWS.

       (a) Inclusion of Airline Flight Crews.--Section 101(2) of 
     the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (29 U.S.C. 2611(2)) 
     is amended by adding at the end the following:
       ``(D) Airline flight crews.--
       ``(i) Determination.-- For purposes of determining whether 
     an employee who is a flight attendant or flight crewmember 
     (as such terms are defined in regulations of the Federal 
     Aviation Administration) meets the hours of service 
     requirement specified in subparagraph (A)(ii), the employee 
     will be considered to be eligible if--

       ``(I) the employee has worked or been paid for 60 percent 
     of the applicable monthly guarantee, or the equivalent 
     annualized over the preceding 12-month period; and
       ``(II) the employee has worked or been paid for a minimum 
     of 504 hours during the preceding 12-month period.

       ``(ii) Definition.--As used in this subparagraph, the term 
     `applicable monthly guarantee' means--

       ``(I) for employees described in clause (i) other than 
     employees on reserve status, the minimum number of hours for 
     which an employer has agreed to schedule such employees for 
     any given month; and
       ``(II) for employees described in clause (i) who are on 
     reserve status, the number of hours for which an employer has 
     agreed to pay such employees on reserve status for any given 
     month,

     as established in the collective bargaining agreement, or if 
     none exists in the employer's policies. Each employer of an 
     employee described in clause (i) shall maintain on file with 
     the Secretary (in accordance with regulations the Secretary 
     may prescribe) the applicable monthly guarantee with respect 
     to each category of employee to which such guarantee 
     applies.''.
       (b) Calculation of Leave for Airline Flight Crews.--Section 
     102(a) of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (29 U.S.C. 
     2612(a)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
       ``(5) Calculation of leave for airline flight crews.--The 
     Secretary may provide, by regulation, a method for 
     calculating the leave described in paragraph (1) with respect 
     to employees described in section 101(2)(D).''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from New 
York (Mr. Bishop) and the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. Guthrie) each 
will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from New York.


                             General Leave

  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, I request 5 legislative days 
during which Members may revise and extend and insert extraneous 
material on H.R. 912 into the Record.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from New York?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking Chairman Miller for 
supporting this bill and for helping to bring it to the floor so 
quickly. I would also like to thank Representative McCotter for being 
the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill, as well as my colleagues who 
have cosponsored this bill. In the 110th Congress, this bill passed by 
an overwhelming majority, 409-2. This legislation submitted today is 
identical to the measure that passed in the 110th Congress, and I hope 
it

[[Page H1054]]

once again receives the strong support it did in the last Congress.
  H.R. 912 simply states that an airline crew member will be eligible 
for Family Medical Leave Act benefits if they have been paid for or 
completed 60 percent of their company's monthly hour or trip guarantee 
and have worked 504 hours.
  The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, has been a great program for 
working families in this country since it was passed in 1993. No one 
can question the benefit it has provided for working men and women by 
being able to take time off from work to care for themselves or for 
their family members.
  The intent of the law was to provide for 12 weeks of unpaid leave if 
an employee had worked 60 percent of a full-time schedule over the past 
year, which equates to about 1,250 hours per year. Therefore, in order 
to qualify for FMLA coverage, an employee has to have logged in at 
least 1,250 hours over a 12-month period to be eligible.
  While 1,250 hours adequately reflects 60 percent of a normal full-
time schedule for the vast majority of employees in this country, that 
equation does not work for flight attendants and pilots. Flight 
attendants and pilots work under the Railway Labor Act rather than the 
Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers most 9:00 to 5:00 workers.
  Time between flights, whether during the day or on overnight/
layovers, is based on company scheduling requirements and needs but 
does not count towards crew member time at work. Flight attendants and 
pilots can spend up to 4 to 5 days a week away from home and family due 
to the nature of their job; however, all of these hours will not count 
towards qualification.
  The courts have strictly interpreted the law and insisted that crew 
members must abide by the 1,250 hours for qualification, even though 
the intent of the law was to work 60 percent of a full-time schedule.
  Thus, airline flight crews have been left out of what was once a 
legislation that was intended to cover them. Therefore, a technical 
correction is needed to ensure that FMLA benefits are extended to these 
employees. This legislation seeks to clarify the original intent of the 
law.
  This legislation brings these transportation workers in line with the 
intent of the original legislation and as promised when the law was 
passed.
  Last year, during a committee hearing, we heard from Jennifer Hunt, a 
flight attendant for U.S. Airways. Jennifer was denied FMLA benefits 
when she applied to take time off to care for her ill husband, an Iraq 
War vet. Jennifer, unfortunately, like many other flight attendants and 
pilots as well, did not meet the hourly requirements and, thus, was 
denied coverage.
  Again, I thank the chairman for his support in bringing this 
legislation to the floor, and I urge the support of my colleagues.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. GUTHRIE. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 912, the Airline 
Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act, and I yield myself such time as 
I consume.
  Mr. Speaker, we just heard this bill is needed to address a very 
narrow, very specific concern. At issue is the fact that some airline 
personnel are subject to a unique scheduling process in which they are 
paid for being on-call but, in some cases, are not credited with those 
hours in the calculation used for Family Medical Leave Act eligibility. 
The practical impact of this technicality is that some flight crew 
personnel may work a full-time schedule but fail to qualify for family 
and medical leave. This is a real concern for those grappling with 
health conditions or family obligations.
  Many Members have been uneasy about efforts to open the Family 
Medical Leave Act for small changes when it is clear that broader 
reforms are necessary. The FMLA has worked well for 16 years, offering 
workers the flexibility to tend to their own health or to care for a 
loved one in their time of need without fear of losing their job.
  But despite the law's many successes, it has also become clear that 
changes are needed. The realities of today's workplaces are different 
than those of a decade and a half ago. Courts have offered evolving 
interpretations, and as is often the case with such a sweeping change 
to employment law, there have been unintended consequences for both 
employers and employees.
  I know the majority has worked with Members on our side of the aisle 
to craft this legislation carefully and to avoid some of the pitfalls 
that could come with piecemeal reform of the FMLA. I want to thank them 
for ensuring this bill does exactly what it intends, no more and no 
less.
  Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today is an important opportunity to 
extend the protections of the FMLA to flight crew who might otherwise 
be denied benefits under the law. I hope we can follow the example set 
with this legislation and work together to find sensible solutions to 
the challenges facing all of America's working families.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1630

  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Does the gentleman from Kentucky have any 
further speakers?
  Mr. GUTHRIE. No, Mr. Speaker.
  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve.
  Mr. GUTHRIE. Mr. Speaker, I support this narrowly crafted legislation 
and urge my colleagues to join me in voting ``yes.''
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of New York. Mr. Speaker, in closing, let me just say that 
the extent to which the two sides cooperated on this bill I think 
serves as a model for the way that legislation can go forward in this 
Chamber. We worked together very cooperatively both at the staff level 
and at the member level to work out issues that existed that were 
sources of concern to various members. We were able to do that. And as 
I say, in the last Congress, we only had two dissenting votes.
  I am hopeful that we will have similar support in this Congress, and 
I am also very hopeful that this measure, which last Congress was 
stalled in the Senate, this year will receive a somewhat better fate in 
the Senate so that we can act to correct this very narrow omission, if 
you will, in what is an otherwise very good law.
  With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge the support of my colleagues.
  Mr. McCOTTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Airline Flight 
Crew Technical Corrections Act. In 1993, Congress passed the Family 
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave 
for employees to care for themselves or family members if the employee 
worked 1,250 hours (or 60 percent of a full time schedule for most 9-5 
employees). Since then, the FMLA has provided many individuals and 
working families in my district and around the country an opportunity 
to provide for themselves and family members during medical 
emergencies.
  As intended, the FMLA provides full-time workers unpaid leave in 
medical emergencies, however due to a United States District Court 
ruling, airline flight crew are largely ineligible to FMLA benefits. 
Specifically, the court created an insurmountable obstacle for flight 
crews by deciding flight attendants and pilots can only count in flight 
hours towards the 1,250 hours required to qualify for the FMLA 
benefits. Typically, flight time only accounts for a portion of flight 
crew's paid working hours. Between flights, airlines require flight 
attendants and pilots to spend numerous hours ``on call'' and away from 
their families. While airlines compensate flight crews for their time 
``on call,'' under the FMLA flight crews remain ineligible to receive 
benefits.
  This is blatantly unfair.
  To correct this oversight and restore the original intent of the 
FMLA, Representative Tim Bishop introduced the Airline Flight Crew 
Technical Corrections Act. I commend Representative Bishop for his 
leadership and I am proud to join him in ensuring flight crews are not 
penalized for working in an industry which does not run on a 9-5 
schedule.
  If enacted, the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act will 
extend FMLA eligibility to airline flight crews who work 60 percent of 
a full time schedule at their airline. Importantly, upon enactment over 
200,000 full-time flight crew personnel will be able to receive FMLA 
benefits. Thus, Mr. Speaker I urge the immediate passage of the Airline 
Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support 
of H.R. 912, the ``Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act.'' I 
thank my colleague Congressman Timothy Bishop from New York, for 
sponsoring this important resolution, I urge my colleagues to support 
this legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, H.R. 912, the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections 
Act, is an amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. This 
resolution addresses the hours-of-service requirement airline flight 
crews must meet to be eligible for leave under such Act.

[[Page H1055]]

  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that helps many 
workers be compensated when they must leave their work for an 
emergency. But airline workers do not meet the qualifications to get 
these benefits because their hours are calculated differently than most 
wage earners'.
  Flight attendants spend only a part of their job in the skies, but 
that time in the sky is all that is recorded for determining their FMLA 
benefits. Flight attendants need H.R. 912, the Airline Flight Crew 
Technical Corrections Act, to be enacted so that they can be covered by 
the FMLA. Importantly, the bill would expand an existing private-sector 
mandate on employers by requiring them to allow additional employees to 
take up to 12 work-weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical 
reasons.
  As a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Chairwoman of 
the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure 
Protection, I am familiar with the pressures and expectations placed 
upon flight crews. Crewmembers work long inconvenient hours with little 
to no consistency in their workday.
  H.R. 912, the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act, will 
give them that consistency that their career fails to provide. This 
legislation will set a standard for granting flight crew leave based on 
a measurable hours of service standard. Flight crew members will meet 
eligibility requirements if they meet 60% of the applicable monthly 
guarantee, or the equivalent annualized over the preceding 12-month 
period, or a total of 504 during that same period.
  This would give flight crews a fair opportunity to receive the same 
benefits that are afforded to all other parties covered previously in 
the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. In the past weeks, Americans 
have seen and heard firsthand from the crew of flight 1549 and how they 
can react when all odds are against them. The flight crew's ability to 
react in time of emergency is clear and it is our job as members of 
Congress to ensure them that if and when they should be struck by 
personal crisis they will be able to take the necessary time off in 
order to fully tend to their family or their own situation. Situations 
already described in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 are as 
follows: For the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee; 
for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or 
foster care; to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or 
parent) with a serious health condition; or to take medical leave when 
the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
  How do we tell these employees that their hard work does not give 
them the ability to care for their families in time of need? This is a 
promise we must keep.
  Mr. Speaker, as a strong supporter of the rights of Transportation 
Security Administration employees I urge my colleagues to join me in 
supporting the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act. This bill 
will make the benefits given to flight crew members equal to those 
already covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
  Mr. BISHOP of New York. I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from New York (Mr. Bishop) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 912.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________