Feeling Powerless About the State of FMLA?


Editor’s note: This article was updated in October 2015.

You may recall my post asking you to show support for the Family Medical Leave Act. The Labor Department wanted public comment on this important law that legally allows us WMAGs to take off work when we have babies (what a concept!)

According to a July 5 post on the On Balance blog, the DOL has heard your comments—more than 15,000 of them. Now it plans to … drumroll, please … do nothing about them. The department did issue a 181-page report, though. That and a nickel will get you a hot cup of jack squat.

I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if anything ever comes of this report. Maybe it will help get the proposed Balancing Act and Healthy Families Act passed? Or at least give the next president something to work on. Just 563 days to go … but who’s counting?

Headed in the right direction

Since this post was first published, family and medical leave law hasn’t progressed as far as I’d like, but at least same-sex couples are now treated equally when it comes to legally guaranteed leave. The U.S. Department of Labor explained in this update back in February 2015:

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division today announced a Final Rule to revise the definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which found section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. The Final Rule amends the definition of spouse so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live.

So, that’s something. We still have a long way to go.

Same sex female couple lying down with their baby son

More about FMLA and other policies that impact working families

Whether you become a parent, get sick, or need to care for a family member who's ill, chances are you'll need FMLA at some point. Check out these tips.

6 thoughts on “Feeling Powerless About the State of FMLA?

  1. PT-LawMom says:

    Just another example of how the current administration has all of its appointees geared to do nothing but take this country down with the ship. 🙁 I am very disappointed to hear that DOL buckled.

  2. Glad to see that you’re administration has all their ducks in line and are currently working on REAL needs of America’s citizen’s (sarcastic). I hate that this has happened.

    *shakes head* Sad, sad day. America’s future means absolutely nothing to them is really what they’re saying.

  3. Too Cool for School says:

    Amen. Agree that we need a comprehensive legislative solution. The Department of Labor (as presently comprised) is no friend of the working mother. Here is an exchange between the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, Karen Czarnecki, and ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas:

    “We need to do more to encourage Americans to save more for the times that they do need to be out of the work force,” Czarnecki said.

    ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas said to Czarnecki: “It’s up to a person to save enough money before they have a baby to be able to stay home for a few weeks and recover and spend some time with that new baby?”

    Czarnecki said: “Yeah, I think people have to take responsibility for themselves and they shouldn’t always look to government to have an answer for them.”


    Also worthy note from the ABC piece: “A study out this week from Harvard and McGill University in Canada shows that of 173 countries surveyed, only five provided no form of paid maternity leave — Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Swaziland, Liberia and, perhaps surprisingly for some, the United States.”

  4. Interesting, Too Cool for School. I wonder what Czarnecki thinks the government’s answer should be for women who get pregnant and decide they don’t have enough saved up for a baby. It always seems that folks who believe government shouldn’t get involved in helping others have no problem with the idea of the government getting involved in some of peoples’ most intimate life decisions. The two start to overlap, in my opinion, where family planning and help for working parents overlap. If you’re going to chastise people for not being prepared to have children, then you shouldn’t force people to have children.

  5. Too Cool for School says:

    Sara, good point! Selective government intrusion is okay, right.

    The other thing is: she’s framing paid leave as a pure entitlement, and that’s a red herring. We don’t want to burden the government and the taxpaying public. On the contrary. We want mandatory paid leave to accomodate the economic reality of mothers in the workforce. This is about contributing to corporate america, not draining it.

    Barack Obama has said that the big government/small government paradigm that defines the two major political parties is outdated – a relic of the new deal and the 60s. Under this line of thinking, any expansion of federal authority = bad. And while I generally favor smaller government, this type of characterization is narrow-minded and regressive. Obama uses the term “smart government” to describe government programs that represent an expansion of the federal govt in ways that are progressive. Mandatory paid FMLA leave is an example of such a policy, in my opinion.

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