FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ness Calls Defense Authorization Bill the President Signed Today
‘Important Step Forward’ Because It Expands
Family and Medical Leave Act, Hate Crimes Law
Statement of Debra L. Ness, President
National Partnership for Women & Families
WASHINGTON, D.C.— October 28, 2009 — “The bill President Obama signed into law today is an important step forward in giving America’s valiant servicemembers and their families the supports they need and deserve. This new law expands on last year’s first-ever expansion of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Now, after today, families of veterans, rather than just active servicemembers, will be able to access 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for wounded veteran family members.
Equally important, today’s action means that all military families, not just families of National Guard and Reserve members, will have access to 12 weeks of qualifying exigency leave. These are badly needed advances that will make a real difference to military families. We applaud lawmakers for taking these steps.
But it is important to remember that millions of workers in this country still are not covered by the FMLA because they work for employers with fewer than 50 workers and/or they do not meet the law’s tenure requirements. The nation has more work to do to ensure that all military families — and all workers — have the family and medical leave they need. We need to expand the FMLA to cover more workers who need leave for more reasons, and adopt paid leave so workers do not risk bankruptcy, poverty spells and foreclosures when they get sick or need to care for a loved one.
In addition, the bill President Obama signed today extends the federal hate crime law to cover crimes based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. This new law will provide badly-needed tools to address and help deter gender-bias hate crimes, making federal assistance available where it is needed most when local authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute violent crimes driven by the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. It sends a strong message that violent hate crimes fueled by gender bias are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This is most welcome and long overdue.”
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a non-profit, non-partisan 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.