A few weeks ago, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) celebrated its 20 year anniversary. At a recent speech at the Department of Labor, Former President Clinton, who signed the FMLA into law in 1993, stated “I’ve had more people mention the family leave law to me, both while I was in the White House and in the 12 years since I’ve been gone, than any other single piece of legislation I’ve signed.”
Political proponents marked the anniversary by advocating their calls for enhanced leave benefits. Clinton, President Obama, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Tom Harkin all recently introduced or advocated for legislative measures aimed at, among other things (i) mandating paid family and medical leave; (ii) dropping thresholds so that the FMLA applies to smaller employers; (iii) making job protected leave available to part-time employees; and (iv) redefining what qualifies for protected leave to include, for example, recovery from routine illness like the flu.
Senator Harkin is poised to re-introduce the Healthy Families Act, which would require companies with 15 or more employees to allow workers to earn up to an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Moreover, House Democrats recently introduced the “Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act,” a bill which would provide all federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. Other measures are being debated and considered, and Republican opposition is expected.
Suffice to say that the next four years should be interesting for employers on the leave and benefits front. We will keep you informed as these events, sure to impact most employers, play out in Washington.