This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — a law that has allowed millions of mothers, fathers, adult children, and other hardworking people to care for their health and their families without having to worry about losing their jobs or their health insurance. It is our nation’s only law designed to help women and men meet the dual demands of job and family, and it has been used more than 100 million times.
As the organization that drafted and led the fight for the FMLA, the National Partnership for Women & Families is proud of the impact the law has had on America’s families and our nation’s culture. It was the first bill President Clinton signed into law and, as he stressed at a recent event celebrating it, “every time it is used, there is a story.” He couldn’t be more right.
Take Robyn from Maryland, who was able to take six months of job-protected leave when one of her twin boys was born with a congenital heart defect. The FMLA meant that during a challenging and emotional time, she could focus on her family instead of worrying about losing her job.
Matari from Texas used the FMLA to take leave for both of her pregnancies. When she developed medical complications during the birth of her second child, the FMLA meant she could spend time at home recovering — without the stress and trauma that comes with the threat of job loss.
Robyn and Matari represent the tens of millions of men and women who have benefited tremendously from the FMLA — but there’s another side to their stories. Both had employers that offered some form of paid leave — paid sick days, vacation days, etc. They used that, along with their unpaid FMLA leave, to help make ends meet. Both were able to plan ahead with their spouses and save days off and critical income before their children arrived. And both were eligible to use the FMLA. Sadly, millions of Americans are not as fortunate.
Tomorrow, we’ll share the stories of a few real moms who either haven’t been eligible for the FMLA or simply can’t afford to take unpaid time off — and the challenges their families have had to overcome as a result.
Debra L. Ness is the president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which drafted and led the fight to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 20 years ago. The organization promotes fairness in the workplace, access to quality affordable health care, and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. For more than three decades, Ness has been a strong advocate for fairness and social justice, possessing a unique understanding of the issues that face women and families at home, in the workplace, and in the health care arena.