National Partnership for Women & Families

New FMLA Regulations Offer Bad News for Workers, Good News for Military Families

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
Washington, D.C. — November 14, 2008 —
“The U.S. Department of Labor’s final regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offer bad news for workers, but mostly good news for military families.  We are delighted that military families will finally get some of the additional support they need and deserve.  The National Partnership fought hard to expand the FMLA to extend unpaid family and medical leave for up to six months for the families of wounded military personnel, and to allow military families to use FMLA leave to help ease the strain of a family member’s deployment.  With these regulations in place, military families should be able to use the leave they need when they need it.  While we would have liked the regulations to allow regular active duty military family members to use FMLA leave while a servicemember is deployed, these measures still can make a real difference for families that have made great sacrifices and are under enormous stress.  It is welcome and badly needed.  This is the first-ever expansion of the FMLA, but we hope and expect that it will not be the last. 

However, the new FMLA regulations for workers take us in the wrong direction, and are harmful and unnecessary.  They will restrict access to protections workers have relied on for 15 years protections they need now more than ever, with the economy in deep trouble and families struggling terribly.  Put simply, the Bush Administration is making it more difficult for employees to take FMLA leave.  Under the regulations released today:

  • Employers will have more direct access to the health information of workers and their family members, jeopardizing their medical privacy.
  • Workers will have less time to give notice of their need for leave, while employers will have more time to let them know whether the request for leave has been approved making it harder for workers to access FMLA leave.
  • Workers will have more requirements regarding ‘fitness for duty’ and more procedures to follow when requesting FMLA leave.  This will make it easer for employers to delay or deny their leave. 
  • It will be more difficult for workers to use their paid leave (such as paid vacation) while on FMLA leave, making it impossible for some workers to take FMLA leave at all.

The FMLA is a success story.  Over the last 15 years, workers have used it more than 100 million times to take the leave they needed without putting their jobs at risk.  There was no reason to restrict it, and no recent scientific study indicated a need for these regulations. 

We should expand the FMLA so more workers can take leave for more reasons, and so those who can’t afford to miss a paycheck can take the leave they need to care for a family member or recover from their own illness.  We will ask the Obama Administration and the next Congress to undo the damage caused by these harmful regulations, as well as to expand the FMLA.”

Contact

Cindy Romero (202) 986-2600 cromero@nationalpartnership.org

The National Partnership for Women & Families 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 www.NationalPartnership.org.

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