This week, the Family and Medical Leave Act, one of the most important pieces of federal legislation affecting employees’ rights, turned 20 years old.
Passed back in 1993 during President Bill Clinton’s first term, FMLA quickly became a watchword in Human Resources departments, around employment lawyer’s offices and in late-night kitchen-table discussions throughout Detroit.
FMLA is a wide-ranging law, but to sum it up, it provides up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for certain medical- or family-related events, such as an illness or pregnancy. We can only estimate how many millions of U.S. workers it has helped immeasurably.
Although it has undoubtedly been a boon to most people, FMLA is not without its flaws.
For instance, it only applies to employers with 50 or more workers, so most smaller businesses are exempt. Furthermore, only people who work 25 hours or more per week qualify for FMLA protections. In the post-recession economy, many people are working several part-time jobs and so do not reach the threshold to qualify for FMLA. Employers have also griped that it is very difficult to keep track of the leave time employees have used.
In our law office, we certainly understand that FMLA is not perfect. Very few laws are. On the balance, though, we believe without question that FMLA was a step in the right direction. We do not see any reason why FMLA should not be revisited in the interest of making improvements or updates. As long as the great progress it made in providing employees with rights is respected and observed, we certainly should be open to exploring ways of improving it.
- NPR, “FMLA Not Really Working For Many Employees,” Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 5, 2013
- Employee Benefit News, “DOL marks FMLA anniversary implementing some changes, rejecting others,” Feb. 6, 2103