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Media Release: Celebrating 20 Years of Strengthening Families – The Family and Medical Leave Act Anniversary

Media Release: Celebrating 20 Years of Strengthening Families – The Family and Medical Leave Act Anniversary

Immediate Release: February 1, 2013
Contact: Susan Berryman Rodriguez (404) 222.0037/susan@9to5.org

February 5 marks the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, one of the most significant advances for working families in our nation’s history. “In 1993, FMLA transformed the workplace and strengthened the American family,” said Linda Meric, national executive director of 9to5. This landmark bill allowed millions of Americans to secure job-protected leave to recuperate from a serious illness, give birth or adopt a new child, or take care of a seriously ill family member without losing their jobs.

35 million men and women have used FMLA more than 100 million times since its enactment. Diane, a Denver teacher and 9to5 member, was able to keep her job while battling cancer, because of the FMLA. The mother of a young son at the time, Diane said “I was able to take time off because I qualified for FMLA. Because I [also] had access to paid sick days, and a paid sick leave bank, I was able to get some wage replacement while I was out for three months.” Diane was one of the too few fortunate ones; she had access not only to FMLA but also to a paid sick leave bank that helped keep her financially afloat.

As critical as FMLA continues to be in protecting jobs and families, it falls short. FMLA’s biggest weakness is that it’s unpaid. This means over three out of four covered Americans who need to care for a desperately ill family member or newborn, or struggle with critical health conditions, are denied basic rights because they need every cent of their paycheck and can’t afford to take FMLA. And almost half of all workers lack job protection under FMLA because they haven’t worked for their employer long enough, they’re only part time, or the size of their company is too small to be eligible. The definition of “family” also needs to be expanded beyond spouses, children and parents so that the law reflects real peoples’ lives and caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, the circumstances that count for people to attend to their family under FMLA are severely limited. In addition to improving FMLA, paid sick days need to be expanded to cover more routine illnesses and preventive care that aren’t covered by FMLA.

“Unfortunately, many workers are forced to go to work when they need to be at home caring for themselves or their families,” continued Meric. “Family comes first. After 20 years, it’s time to make FMLA paid leave and more accessible to hardworking families. Our country depends upon healthy, economically secure families to help fuel a strong, thriving economy.”

To read stories from hardworking Americans who have put family first with  FMLA, as well as those denied this right because of a lack of accessibility  or affordability, click here. Their voices make a strong case for strengthening and improving FMLA so that more of us are able to take responsibility for ourselves and our families while continuing to be productive employees.

About 9to5: In 1973, a group of female office workers in Boston, fed up with being powerless and undervalued in the workplace, mobilized to change the way they were treated and paid. The group organized around their grievances; terms that didn’t yet exist– sexual harassment, pay equity and family leave. Forty years later, 9to5 has emerged as one of the largest, most respected national membership organizations of working women in the U.S. For more information, go to 9to5.org.

9to5 has made huge, bold strides since Jane Fonda’s movie “9to5,” inspired by the group, premiered. Over the past 40 years, 9to5 has celebrated hard-won victories like the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the 1991 improvements in the Civil Rights Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and greater investments in child care and health care for working families.

 

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