FMLA input needed!

Nearly two years ago, I wrote here about rumors that the Department of Labor was going to try to roll back the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  There was some good discussion about the importance of FMLA, but DOL didn’t do anything.  It looked like the we might have nipped the attempt in the bud.

Well, on Friday DOL published a "request for comments" on FMLA.  DOL "invites interested parties having knowledge of, or experience with, the FMLA to submit comments and welcomes any pertinent information that will provide a basis for ascertaining the effectiveness of the current implementing regulations and the Department’s administration of the Act."

"Interested parties having knowledge of, or experience with, the FMLA…."  That means me.  And probably you.  So let’s do it.   Comments are due by February 2, 2007. Email them to: (the notice also lists a US mail address, as well as a fax number.)

DOL lists a range of topics on which they are particularly soliciting feedback, including the definitions of an eligible employee, a "serious health condition" and a "day," the interaction between paid leave and unpaid FMLA leave, the medical certification procedures, and the impact of FMLA on productivity, morale, and retention.

Based on my reading of the notice, I think they’re trying to make a case against allowing workers to use "intermittent, unscheduled" FMLA.  It’s clear that employers have complained about it, arguing that workers who are late or just don’t want to come in are claiming that it’s due to depression or other hard-to-disprove ailments and covered under FMLA.  I hear that, and I’m sure there are cases of employees who abuse the law.  But there’s plenty of legitimate reasons why one might need to take intermittent, unscheduled leave to deal with personal or family illness.   I would guess that there are far more people with medical conditions where the need for care is unpredictable — like asthma or lupus — than those where people have regularly scheduled appointments, like chemotherapy or dialysis.

The Federal Register notice is fairly dense and technical, but don’t get intimidated by it.  What they’re asking for is personal experience — your stories.  Tell them about how you needed leave when your or your child, spouse or parent was sick.  Tell them about your coworkers who took leave, and how you managed to cover for them.  If you’re an employer, tell them how the FMLA has affected you.

Also let them know when FMLA hasn’t worked for you.  Tell them if you had to go back to work 6 weeks after you had your baby instead of 12 because you couldn’t afford to do without your salary any more.  Tell them about the problems you had because your kids passed the same damn cold back and forth all month, but the FMLA regulations say that "a cold or flu" doesn’t count as a serious illness.  Tell them if you’re a doctor and find the documentation requirements a burden.

Let’s spread the word.  MomsRising already picked the story up, but I haven’t seen much else about it. 

Additional resource: National Partnership for Women and Families

10 Responses to “FMLA input needed!”

  1. Rebel Dad Says:

    Family Leave Needs *You*

    The United States has staggeringly weak family leave laws, so any attempt to muck with what little we have makes me very, very nervous. So I was, naturally, alarmed when I read at Half Changed World that the government had put out a Request for Informa…

  2. Suzanne Says:

    Thanks for this notice, Elizabeth. I’ll be preparing my own comments for them about my experience with FMLA (both my pregnancies).

  3. Megan Booth Says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I will definately be commenting. This is unbelievable given how many of us find FMLA the bare minimum of service and truly not nearly enough in terms of helping families.

  4. landismom Says:

    Yikes! Thanks for the heads-up, Elizabeth.

  5. Pajamas Media Says:

    If You Or a Family Member Might Ever Get Sick:

    Then you might be concerned about signs that the Department of Labor might roll back parts of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) They are officially requesting feedback from the public on the law, so speak up now if you…

  6. Terri Says:

    It is amazing to me how employees can think that employers should be required by the government to relieve the pressures they may have in their lives because their children pass colds around or they have to return to work when their babies are six weeks old. This is creeping socialism. If you were self-emloyed and depended on yourselves for your income, you would be in the same boat. As a small business, we put everything on the line everyday. Our homes, our finances. We do not make the big bucks. We must figure it out when our children are sick and when are babies are born, but then are forced to provide a level of protection to employees that exceeds what is reasonable. Evil employers are not the norm. We bend over backwards to work with people around their life pressures. We want to keep good employees. And you can always start your own business or find another employer if yours is a jerk or you don’t like the realities of your job. But don’t sanction the government telling us what we should pay people or that we have to be the safety net for all of life’s trials. It is crazy. Socialism does not work.

  7. whymommy Says:

    Elizabeth, thanks so much for posting this on your blog. I’m writing up my experiences and trying to spread the word through my blog as well. The additional insight you bring to this is important, so we know where to focus our energies/comments. If you hear any more, I’d like to know!

  8. whymommy Says:

    Elizabeth, thanks so much for posting this on your blog. I’m writing up my experiences and trying to spread the word through my blog as well. The additional insight you bring to this is important, so we know where to focus our energies/comments. If you hear any more, I’d like to know!

  9. Sandy D. Says:

    I’d like to include a link here in the next Carnival of Feminists on Dec. 20 –

  10. Tom S Says:

    The issue is a complex one. But I will tell you that I’ve seen terrible abuse of intermittent leave. 85 % of the workforce uses it properly. But 15% abuse it and it drives HR people nuts. We need it to remain, but with a few changes. I’m glad I read your post and will probably write a post on my blog, HR Rant.

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