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Survey: Many workers can’t afford family or medical leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act has been around nearly a quarter of a century, helping Americans take care of important medical issues and loved ones without fear of losing their jobs. The law's benefits are sometimes taken for granted, but a new study suggests that low-income workers are often unable to take advantage of FMLA's benefits or are uncomfortable doing so.

The Pew Research Center Study found that nearly two-thirds of American workers have taken family or medical leave -- or are very likely to do so at some point. However, another 16 percent said that they have had circumstances arise in the past two years in which a leave would have been nice, but that they didn't do so. For low-income workers, the number who declined to use FMLA rose to 30 percent.

The reasons why they chose not to make use of FMLA benefits vary. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they feared losing their job. Forty-two percent said they didn't take a leave because they knew their absence would negatively impact co-workers. Forty percent said the leave might hurt their chances of advancing in their career.

Nearly three quarters of respondents listed this as one of the reasons why they chose not to use FMLA: they couldn't afford to lose wages during the leave.

The article we read on the survey did not delve into the subject of workers who fear retaliation for using FMLA, but we know this happens far too often. We also know that some qualified workers are denied use of FMLA benefits or are even fired for taking family or medical leave.

An attorney experienced in protecting rights under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act and the federal FMLA can help you fight back. You can contact the Milwaukee law office of Alan C. Olson & Associates, s.c. for more information.

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