Family and Medical Leave Act and workplace discrimination

The Family and Medical Leave Act is the first and only federal law that addresses the balance between jobs and family that workers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. must maintain. The 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the act has been used more than 200 million times since being passed. Reasons for taking leave vary, including recovering from a serious illness, caring for a loved one who is ill or receiving maternity or paternity leave.

Approximately 40 percent of workers are ineligible for FMLA due reasons such as to short work hours or tenure. Even some eligible workers did not use their unpaid leave, as they couldn’t afford to be without pay. FMLA provides job protection, but it’s important to ensure that the person returning from leave will not suffer workplace discrimination. A worker who needs medical leave or has family responsibilities should not face discrimination in the workplace, and women should not face pregnancy discrimination.

Of the U.S. workforce, only 12 percent of workers could take paid family leave through their employer, and less than 40 percent of workers have personal medical leave through employers’ short-term disability insurance. Some businesses provide paid leave, and three states guarantee paid leave, meaning that paid FMLA leave is dependent on where a person lives and works. President Obama announced initiatives and funding for states to develop their own paid leave programs. There is a national paid leave proposal, the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, that has support from organizations and voters.

A lawyer may be able to help with aspects of employment law if an eligible worker is denied FMLA leave. A lawyer could also help if a worker returning from FMLA leave experiences discrimination in the workplace.

Source: Huffington Post, “200 Million Reasons to Support Paid Family and Medical Leave,” Debra L. Ness, Feb. 5, 2015

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