National Partnership for Women & Families

More Adult Children Will Be Able to Get the Care They Need Thanks to the Department of Labor's Interpretation of the FMLA

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
Washington, D.C. — January 15, 2013 —
The Administrator’s Interpretation issued yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) makes an important acknowledgment that a parent’s need to care for his or her child lasts beyond the years when the child is a minor. This new guidance provides needed clarification about when a parent may take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for an adult child, and it will mean that more sons and daughters with disabilities and serious health conditions will be able to get the critical care they need from their parents.

DOL’s interpretation clarifies that a parent may take leave to care for an adult child with a disability that manifests after the age of 18. In doing so, it recognizes that serious health conditions that affect a child’s ability to care for him or herself can arise at any time — and that parents should have the ability to provide care to sons and daughters no matter their age.

The new guidance also makes clear that the definition of disability under the FMLA is consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, which established a broader and more inclusive definition to cover individuals who face substantial limits to completing major life activities.

We applaud the DOL for taking steps to clarify the law and increase access to leave under the FMLA. When serious health conditions and emergencies arise, no parent should have to risk his or her job in order to care for a child in need. Making it clear to the nation’s employers that these parents are eligible for job-protected leave was the right thing to do. America’s families will be better off as a result.

Enacted 20 years ago next month, the FMLA was the first federal law to help workers meet the dual demands of work and family. It has been a tremendous success, with workers using it more than 100 million times. While expansions like this are most welcome, 20 years later, we urge lawmakers to expand the law so many more workers can take leave for more reasons and so workers have access to some wage replacement while on leave.”

The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at

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