The first-ever expansion of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law yesterday when President Bush signed the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report. The expansion, originally championed by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) as the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act, extends unpaid family and medical leave for up to six months for the families of wounded military personnel. “This measure can make a real difference for military families that have made great sacrifices and are under enormous stress,” said National Partnership for Women & Families President Debra L. Ness. “It is urgently needed and long overdue.”
“This is the first-ever expansion of the nearly 15-year-old Family & Medical Leave Act, but it should not be the last,” Ness continued. “Family and medical leave is important to all families facing serious health problems. Lawmakers should look to expand the leave this law provides, for returning service members and for all Americans.”
Ness said the National Partnership is supporting legislation to expand the FMLA to cover more workers who need leave for more reasons, and pressing for paid family and medical leave for all workers. California has had paid leave in place since 2004.
At a time when the U.S. Department of Labor is considering new regulations, the National Partnership is urging the Bush Administration not to weaken the FMLA protections workers have relied on for 15 years. “We must move forward rather than turning back the clock,” Ness added, “and adopt policies that help America’s workplaces become more family-friendly so individuals can be productive workers and responsible family members.”
She thanked Senators Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Barack Obama (D-IL) for co-sponsoring the Support for Injured Servicemembers Act. Its enactment fulfills a key recommendation of the Commission on the Care for Wounded Warriors, which was led by former Senator Bob Dole and former Secretary of Health & Human Services Donna Shalala.
The FMLA was enacted on February 5, 1993, giving millions of Americans job-protected unpaid time off to care for their loved ones or recover from their own serious illness. By conservative estimates, more than 100 million Americans have used the unpaid leave the law provides