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FMLA celebrates its 20th anniversity with proven success


APRIL 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

FMLA celebrates its 20th anniversity with proven success


REGION, March 26th- According to a survey released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an independent progressive economic think tank, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been successful but more can be done.

FMLA celebrated its 20th anniversity this February and CEPR stated it was a huge step forward for workers in the nation, which lags behind nearly all other developed countries in enabling people to take the time they need, without worrying that they may be fired from their jobs to care for themselves and their families when faced with serious illness or welcoming a new child.

Data indicates FMLA has been used 100 million times in the last 20 years, benefiting families and without burdening employers. But, there remain millions of American who are not covered by the FMLA, they can still be fired if they get sick, have a baby, or need to care for a serious ill family member. And millions more are eligible but do not take the time off because they do not know they are eligible or can’t afford to go without pay.

CEPR senior economist Eileen Appelbaum recently wrote a series of posts to review the findings of the FMLA surveys and draw lessons about what to do next.

According to the survey, about a third of all workers still have not heard about FMLA. A significant share of employers who are covered by FMLA do not comply with all of its provisions. Nearly a quarter of work sites subject to FMLA, employing nearly a tenth of all workers, do not know that the FMLA applies to them. One in five work sites covered by the FMLA do not permit employees to take leave for one or more qualifying reasons for leave. And nearly a third of workers are employed at these work sites.

In part 2 of the survey it was discussed that 20 years of experience with the FMLA has created the beginnings of a culture change among employers. Many businesses that are too small to be covered by FMLA either believe that they are covered and offer leaves for FMLA-qualified reasons to their employees or, even knowing they are not required to do so, allow workers to take leave for many of the FMLA-qualified reasons. Ms. Appelbaum feels it seems that expanding FMLA to cover work sites with fewer than 50 workers would not be a heavy lift for smaller businesses. Expanding the coverage of FMLA to smaller businesses would level the playing field for good employers.

The final entry in the survey series examined the experiences of employers with FMLA and found that it’s basically a non-event for them. Meaning, the warnings from business lobbyists that it would impose burdens and lead to fraud and abuse have proven to be unwarranted. More than 9 out of 10 of covered employers reported any confirmed cases of misuse, and only 1 in 40 report suspicion of misuse of FMLA leaves. Most covered work sites found it easy to administer and comply with FMLA, more than 8 in 10 employers stated that compliance was easy or had no noticeable effect.

Overall, the most important takeaway from the Department of Labor surveys of employee and employer experiences with FMLA is that it has greatly benefited workers who have access to job protection leave to care for their families without unduly burdening employers, for whom it has largely been a non-event. Also, expanding coverage to worksites with fewer than 50 employees will not be a heavy lift for small employers, many of whom already allow employees to take leaves for FMLA-qualifying reasons.

Ms. Appelbaum concluded that a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program to provide paid leaves would ease the financial burden on many families that do not have access to employer-provided pay.