The Bush Administration’s final regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) take effect today. The nation’s leading expert on the FMLA says the two-part regulations restrict workers’ FMLA rights and make it harder for them to take leave, but give military families a clear path to care for their families while service members are deployed and to access leave to care for wounded service members.
“Just days before the Bush Administration leaves office, workers already under stress in our deeply troubled economy must now contend with harmful, unnecessary new restrictions on their FMLA rights,” said National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness. “The new regulations restrict access to protections workers have relied on for nearly 16 years. Put simply, these regulations make it more difficult for employees to take the FMLA leave they need.”
The FMLA is the only federal law specifically targeted to giving workers the job-protected time they need to care for their families. It provides qualified workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recover from their own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. Under the regulations released today:
- Employers have more direct access to the health information of workers and their family members, jeopardizing their medical privacy.
- Workers have less time to give notice of their need for leave, while employers 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 have more requirements regarding ‘fitness for duty’ and more procedures to follow when requesting FMLA leave. This makes it easer for employers to delay or deny their leave.
- It is 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.
“At the same time we worry about the regulations’ impact on workers, we are delighted that they finally give military families some of the additional support they need and deserve,” Ness added. “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. This is the first-ever expansion of the FMLA, but we are confident that it will not be the last.”
Over the last 16 years, workers have used the FMLA 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 to revise a law that has been working well for employers as well as workers,” Ness said. “We ask the new Congress to 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 illness. The Obama Administration and Congress should waste no time in undoing the damage caused by these regulations, as well as expanding the FMLA and adopting paid leave.”