Lawmakers, officials, and advocates celebrate FMLA’s 30th birthday

Department of Labor officials and members of Congress praised the landmark 1993 law while eyeing a future that includes paid leave.
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The Office/NBC via Giphy

· 3 min read

When I turned 30, I hosted a modest party with friends and loved ones in Washington, DC, and people in attendance took turns lauding me for successfully reaching my three-decade milestone. Turns out I’ve got something in common with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—besides the fact that neither of us look a day over 25. *bats eyelashes*

Lawmakers celebrated 30 years of the FMLA last Monday at the Department of Labor (DOL), where Secretary Marty Walsh was joined by department officials, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, members of Congress, and advocates to recognize its impact on the American workplace—something to which HR professionals can attest.

“FMLA is a critical part of our efforts at DOL to build an economy that works for all people. The truth is everybody should be able to take leave when they need it, and there are many valid reasons for taking leave, but they all have one thing in common: It’s called living life,” Walsh said.

For 30 years, HR departments have been facilitating leave in compliance with the law, which allows workers at companies with more than 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a new child, address a serious health condition, or care for an ailing relative, without the risk of job loss. But as a seasoned compliance expert, of course you already knew all that.

“Since 1993, Americans have relied on the FMLA on more than 460 million occasions...which is an extraordinary achievement,” said Jocelyn Frye, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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According to the National Partnership, 92% of worksites report no difficulty complying with FMLA. Some 65% say complying with FMLA has “little overall effect” on their company, while nearly 32% report positive effects. Officials and advocates suggested that the passage of the FMLA was a first step and are eyeing the next: paid family leave.

HR professionals can expect a renewed effort to address paid leave at the national level. Fourteen states, as well as DC, require (qualified) employers to provide employees paid time off to care for themselves or sick children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s president, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. told HR Brew earlier this month that “having unpaid leave is tantamount to no leave.” His organization is calling on Congress to create an optional national paid family and medical leave insurance market so employers can offer paid leave to workers who need it.

“I feel like 30 is one of those ages where you’re no longer a youngster, so you can look back on some accomplishments that you’ve made, but you also have a lot of room to grow and to build on what you’ve done, and so it is with the FMLA,” DOL Deputy Secretary Julie Su said at the event.

Three cheers for growth in your 30s!—AD

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected]. For completely confidential conversations, ask Adam for his number on Signal.

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