Last week we discussed the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and discussed some of the shortfalls of the law. One issue with the FMLA is that in some workplaces, it is only acceptable for women to take job-protected leaves for the birth of a child and not for men to do so. The law makes no such distinction, however many employers here in Wisconsin may be intimidating new fathers and discouraging them from taking advantage of their federal family leave rights.
Most people in Wisconsin are probably unaware that yesterday marked a very important anniversary in employment law history. On Feb. 5, 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act was enacted to strengthen families and employment rights by allowing workers to take job-protected leaves to give birth or adopt a child, or deal with a serious illness or that of a family member. As some people may recall, prior to the FMLA, people often lost their jobs when these family events occurred.
Expecting fathers here in Wisconsin may want to think about moving abroad. This week, Finland enacted a new law that allows new fathers to take 54 days of paid leave following the birth of a child. Of course, Finland is not the only place to find mandatory paid paternity leave; there are countries all over the world where this is the norm. For example, in Sweden fathers receive 480 days of paid paternity leave. Of course, that is nowhere near the case here in the U.S. where many argue that our family leave laws are actually biased against fathers.
The Family and Medical Leave Act sometimes seems too good to be true. Under both the federal and Wisconsin laws, an eligible employee is allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave without pay for major life events. The birth or adoption of a child, a personal health emergency and the serious illness of a member of the employee's immediate family are just a few examples.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has states and state employees scrambling to update their policy manuals. In Wisconsin, the decision may affect the rights of about 95,000 government employees under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The issue is an employee's leave to recover from his or her own serious medical condition.
In this day and age, it is hard to believe that there are still businesses and companies that think it is appropriate to discriminate against pregnant women. Sadly, there are, as evidence by a recent case in which a Milwaukee medical-staffing agency had to pay a $148,000 fine to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.
The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed a few changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act that, if approved, will have an impact on workers in Wisconsin. These proposed rules will only change the federal law; the Wisconsin FMLA will not be affected. The public comment period on the new language closes at the end of March.
The Family and Medical Leave Act can be difficult for any Wisconsin worker to understand. In fact, it can be hard for employers to understand, too. It's okay if employers get confused, but it is not okay if they blunder forward without making sure they are giving employees the consideration and respect they must have.
The director of an animal shelter has brought a discrimination and a wrongful discharge lawsuit against his employer after he took medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to treat a serious medical condition. Under the FMLA, an employee who leaves his job for a medical reason is entitled to return to the same or an equivalent position.
In our last post, we were talking about the Family and Medical Leave Act. As we said, the act ensures that an employee's job and health insurance are protected when the employee takes time off for what some call "a major life event." Here in Wisconsin we have our own FMLA, and it differs from the federal law in a few ways.