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Monthly Archive for February, 2013
This month, the National Partnership, along with other advocates, workers and lawmakers, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – the first and only national law to help workers balance the demands of job and family. The celebrations included a strong push to expand the law, so that more workers can take leave for more reasons and so all workers will have paid family leave insurance.
Workers have taken leave more than 100 million times under the FMLA in these 20 years. To recognize the FMLA’s impact on men, women and families across the country, the National Partnership hosted “A Night of 100 Million Thanks” celebration. The event brought together past and present champions of the FMLA and family friendly workplace policies to both reflect on the law’s success and look to the future.
The historic anniversary generated a great deal of activity on Capitol Hill and across the country, including multiple events, a new Department of Labor report on the FMLA, and many op-eds and blog posts from members of Congress and advocates. We are so grateful to everyone who made the milestone both a celebration and a call to action. Take a look at some of the highlights below and find photos here.
Current and Former Lawmakers and Advocates Reflect on the FMLA and Call for Next Steps:
Bill Clinton: Why I Signed the Family and Medical Leave Act
Former President Bill Clinton, Politico
Family and Medical Leave Act Still Working
Former Senators Kit Bond (R – Mo.) and Chris Dodd (D – Conn.), USA Today
20 Years, 100 Million Families Helped
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) and former Representative Connie Morella (R – Md.), Roll Call
Sick leave is essential for the workforce
Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa), Politico
FMLA 20 years on: A disconnect that’s hurting families
Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families, The Hill
The Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 20!
Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families, Working Mother
20 Years Ago Today, America Became a More Family-Friendly Nation — And We Must Do It Again
Debra Ness, National Partnership for Women & Families, Huffington Post
The Family and Medical Leave Act: Then, Now and Next
Seth Harris (Acting Secretary of Labor), Huffington Post
Kunin: Family and Medical Leave Act needs one more word: paid
Former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin (D), VT Digger
Expand National Paid Family Leave
Eileen Appelbaum, Center for Economic and Policy Research, U.S. News & World Report
Op-Ed: The Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 20—But Half of U.S. Workers Still Can’t Use It
Ellen Bravo, Family Values @ Work, Take Part
A Personal Family and Medical Leave Act Story: How Children and Family Policy Became a “Big Thing”
Patty Cole, Zero to Three
Making the Workplace Friendly for Everyone’s Familia
Alicia Criado, National Council of La Raza
Extend the Family Medical Leave Act
Steven L. Dawes, United Steelworkers
4 Reasons To Update The Family And Medical Leave Act For The 21st Century
Pat Garofalo, Center for American Progress Action Fund, ThinkProgress
IWPR Marks Anniversary of FMLA: Progress Still Needed on Paid Leave
Jasmin Griffin, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Protecting Our Families When They’re Most Vulnerable
Emily Hecht-McGown, Family Equality Council
5 Advocacy Lessons from the FMLA Campaign
Sue Hoechstetter, Bolder Advocacy
Celebrating Twenty Years of the FMLA
Mary Kay Henry, SEIU
Kluger: Give devastated parents the time they need to grieve
Barry Kluger, The MISS Foundation, Newsday
When Family Leave Crosses the Aisle
Jodie Levin-Epstein, CLASP, Huffington Post
FMLA Anniversary: Celebrating 20 Years of Strengthening Families
Linda Meric, 9to5, National Association of Working Women, Huffington Post
A Long Road to the Rose Garden
Sammie Moshenberg, National Council of Jewish Women
Paid Family Leave: A Work Unfinished
Susan Ochshorn, ECEPolicyWorks, ECE Policy Matters
Strengthening 21st Century Families: The Case for Paid Family Leave
Susan Ochshorn, ECEPolicyWorks, and Curtis Skinner, National Center for Children in Poverty, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
MomsRising Celebrates and Looks Forward to Expanding on FMLA with Our Partners
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, MomsRising
Extend family leave to all workers
Janet Walsh, Human Rights Watch, CNN
Twelve Weeks and Twenty Years: Happy Birthday, Family and Medical Leave Act!
Liz Watson, National Women’s Law Center
For more, check out MomsRising’s FMLA Blog Carnival.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – the nation’s first and only federal law that helps women and men meet their responsibilities at home and on the job. And even though the law has been a huge success, new data from the Department of Labor reveal that many people still aren’t familiar with the protection it offers. Nearly 60 percent of workers in the United States are covered by the FMLA, but 29 percent of them don’t know it.
Knowing your FMLA rights is important (below, we’ll let you know what they are!), but we also need to advocate for an expanded FMLA that applies to more workers in more situations and a national paid leave program that means more workers can afford to take the time away from their jobs that they need. No worker should have to choose between job and family.
So, in honor of the FMLA’s 20th year, let’s go over the basics, and then share them with friends and family. The following is intended to be a general guide – not legal advice that applies to a particular situation. Always consult a lawyer or local legal aid clinic before taking legal action.
What is the Family and Medical Leave Act or “FMLA”?
The FMLA has been a federal law since 1993. It requires certain employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to:
- Care for a newborn or newly adopted child (including foster children);
- Care for a seriously ill family member (defined as a spouse, child or parent);
- Recover from a serious illness (including pregnancy or childbirth);
- Care for an injured servicemember (up to 26 weeks); or deal with situations related to a family member’s deployment.
For the birth or placement of a child, the leave must be taken all at once unless your employer agrees to intermittent leave. When medically necessary, you can take leave intermittently without needing your employer’s permission.
Are you eligible for FMLA leave?
Generally, you are eligible for FMLA leave if you have been employed at your current job for at least one year and 1,250 hours AND you work at a business or public agency (including a school and state, local or federal employer) with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
What qualifies as a “serious health condition” under the FMLA?
There is no list of conditions that qualify for FMLA leave. Instead, a serious health condition is defined by its effect. It must involve either inpatient care at a hospital or medical facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider. “Continuing treatment by a health care provider” covers many situations including:
- Pregnancy or prenatal care;
- Chronic conditions that extend over a long period of time and require periodic visits to a health care provider (e.g., asthma, diabetes);
- A permanent, long-term condition for which treatment may be ineffective (e.g., Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, terminal cancer);
- Restorative surgery or treatment for a condition which, if left untreated, would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three days (e.g., chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer, dialysis); or
- Any health condition that causes a period of three consecutive days of incapacity and is accompanied by at least two visits to a health care provider or one visit and continued monitoring by the health care provider.
What about state laws regarding family and medical leave?
The FMLA sets forth the minimum standards to which employers must comply. Some states have laws that offer greater protection for employees. To find out more about whether or not your state has greater protections, visit www.NationalPartnership.org/
Am I entitled to paid leave under the FMLA?
No, the FMLA requires only unpaid leave. You may be entitled to paid leave under your employer’s short-term disability program. You may also be able to – or have to – use your sick time or vacation time while you are on FMLA leave.
Five states – California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island – and Puerto Rico have Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs that provide some pay when a worker has a serious health condition, including pregnancy. California and New Jersey have paid family leave insurance programs that disburse payments from an employee-paid insurance fund when workers need time off to care for a family member or to bond with a new child.
The FMLA means that people can take the time they need when serious medical needs arise – without having to worry about losing their jobs or their health insurance. Unfortunately, 40 percent of the workforce is not eligible for it, and many more cannot afford to take unpaid leave. That is why Congress needs to expand the FMLA to make leave available to more people for more reasons and to establish a national paid leave insurance program, so that workers don’t have to sacrifice their financial security when they need time away from work.
For a more detailed FAQ on the FMLA and the protection it provides, along with more information on proposals to address the law’s gaps and establish a paid leave program, visit www.NationalPartnership.org/
Today, we mark a historic and celebratory moment in our nation’s history.
Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton signed into law the very first bill of his administration, and its first word is “family.” Since then, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has enabled millions of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters to get and provide critical care without risking their jobs or health insurance protections. It has provided job-protected, unpaid leave for moms and dads to care for babies, adult children to care for ailing older parents, workers to recover from serious illness, and much more.
At the National Partnership — then the Women’s Legal Defense Fund — the signing of the FMLA was the culmination of years of leadership and hard work drafting, coalition building, advocating, communicating, occasionally compromising and, most importantly, never giving up on our vision for a more family-friendly America.
“Groundbreaking” is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but this victory truly was. The FMLA is the first national law ever to help Americans manage the dual demands of work and family. It was made possible by a broad coalition of 200 diverse groups and by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who knew it was time to start changing the culture in this country.
And we prevailed, for the good of the nation.
Today, 20 years later, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times. Many Americans take for granted that working people have access to job-protected, unpaid leave when serious medical needs arise — a testament to the great success of the law. For an entire generation, taking leave under the FMLA has been a fundamental, unquestioned right.
The tremendous impact of the FMLA on people’s lives and the culture of the nation are real reasons for us all to celebrate. But this anniversary is also a stark reminder of how long it has been since lawmakers have come together to prioritize the needs of America’s working families. And new datafrom the Department of Labor (DOL), released just yesterday, make painfully clear the urgency for further progress.
According to the DOL’s first survey of the FMLA in 13 years, 40 percent of the workforce is not covered by the FMLA’s protections. And the inability to afford to take unpaid leave is the most common reason workers who are covered by the law say they didn’t take leave when they needed it. (A more detailed analysis of the DOL’s findings can be found here.)
These gaps are the result of dramatic changes in our workforce in the past two decades, and the fact that the FMLA was meant to be just a first step on the road to a family-friendly America. Twenty years later, the country has yet to take the next step. And the bipartisanship and commitment to a better country for working people that made FMLA possible seems a distant and fading memory.
Fortunately, there is hope. More and more lawmakers and others recognize family-friendly policies as essential to families’ economic security, to the success of businesses, and to restoring the vitality of our nation’s economy.
The American public recognizes this as well. There are significant opportunities for progress on the horizon, and a growing body of research that shows that Americans, across demographic and party lines, want — and urgently need — Congress to move the country forward. In fact, according to recent polling, the overwhelming majority of Americans say they struggle to manage work and family obligations. Eighty-six percent say Congress should consider new laws that would help, like a paid family and medical leave insurance program.
Paid leave policies benefit working families, businesses and our national economy. They keep people working, level the playing field for businesses, reduce reliance on public assistance and much, much more. Paid leave policies are win-win-win, and it is time for members of Congress to make the introduction and passage of a national standard a top priority.
Twenty years ago today, America became a more family friendly nation. We can — and must — do it again.
You can find out more about the FMLA, its history, and the need for next steps at www.NationalPartnership.org/FMLA.
Tuesday, February 5, marks exactly 20 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law. The nation’s first and only federal law designed to help families manage their responsibilities at work and at home, it was a historic and groundbreaking event.
Since then, millions of people have been able to take unpaid leave to care for themselves, their new children and their family members without having to worry that their jobs would be gone when they returned. Fathers and mothers have taken time to care for new children. Expecting mothers have taken time to care for themselves and seek medical help during complicated pregnancies. Adult children have taken time to care for ailing parents. Nearly everyone has, or knows someone who has, benefited from the FMLA.
This shared experience is a testament to the FMLA’s success—and that is why this anniversary is a time to celebrate. The FMLA has had a tremendous impact on our nation’s families and workplace culture. And the fact that it has been used more than 100 million times is evidence of the continuing, urgent need for supportive public policies.
This anniversary is also a moment to recommit to an America in which family comes first. The FMLA was meant to be a first step toward a nation in which all working people can have children, recover from illness and care for seriously ill loved ones without threatening their jobs or economic security. Sadly, in 20 years, our nation has failed to take another step.
As the organization that drafted and led the fight for the FMLA, the National Partnership continues to push for improvements. We are also pressing for a national paid family and medical leave program that would prevent workers from having to sacrifice precious income when serious medical needs arise or children are born or join families. We were proud to join with Working Mother last year to galvanize support for that effort. (You can still sign the petition for paid parental leave here.)
Advancing common sense measures like these, which help working mothers and their families and have overwhelming public support, must be a priority for Congress and the administration, this anniversary year and beyond. Let’s not wait another 20 years before making America more family friendly. The time for action is now. Let’s take the next step toward the America working families need.