FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nation's Top Family Leave Expert Warns Against Rolling Back FMLA Protections
Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
WASHINGTON, DC — June 26, 2007 — "The report leaked today by the U.S. Department of Labor reaffirms what more than 60 million Americans know firsthand: The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law we need, a law that works well, and a law that benefits both families and businesses. This report contains just opinions and anecdotes. It would have been helpful if the Department had conducted an objective, scientific study on use of the FMLA, but it did not. It simply invited comment. The report that will be released tomorrow merely compiles opinions, many submitted by parties that have long opposed the FMLA and every measure that helps workers meet the demands of work and family.
Businesses apparently identified two concerns: That it can be difficult to administer unscheduled intermittent leave for employees with chronic conditions; and that the medical certification requirement is cumbersome.
Certainly, we know that it can be challenging to manage employees with illnesses that require unplanned absences, but that is a challenge all employers must meet. It is simply a part of doing business. With our inadequate health care system and aging workforce, and with chronic illness on the rise, this will become more of an issue in years to come. The best answers may lie in increased access to preventive health care and establishing a minimum federal standard of paid sick days.
The medical certification provisions in the law strikes the best possible balance by relying on physicians’ medical expertise and providing for second and third opinions where there is a dispute.
We are gravely concerned that the Department will follow this report with regulations designed to roll back FMLA protections. There is simply no justification for doing so. Lawmakers should be looking to provide paid family and medical leave, as California has been doing for three years now, and to adopt the next generation of work/family policies including federal legislation guaranteeing workers paid sick days. We urge the Bush Administration to make good on its family friendly rhetoric by helping us move forward, rather than seeking to undo gains of the past. The FMLA has been law for 14 years, and families, businesses and the nation are better off because of it."
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.