The FMLA Turns 25! It’s Time to Expand this Basic Right

It’s been 25 years since President Clinton signed landmark legislation establishing 12 weeks of job protected leave for workers taking time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, or to care for one’s own serious health condition.

The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, has been used over 200 million times. It established the principle that having a family shouldn’t cost American workers their jobs and it laid the groundwork for the national movement for Paid Family Leave. This week let’s celebrate #FMLA25 by not only calling for the passage of the FAMILY Act – a national paid family leave law, but also for the expansion of FMLA job protection so all workers can care for their family or themselves without fear of losing pay or the job they need.


Tanya_Reyes_-_Friedman.pngTanya Reyes and her family at the Capitol for Lobby Day

The FMLA is a lot more than ‘unpaid leave’ – it protects workers from job loss or retaliation during important life events like the serious illness of a loved one or the birth of a new child. Right now, over 40% of US workers are not covered by the FMLA or other job protection laws when they take bonding or caregiving leave. We need to change this. In California, the Employment Development Department’s (EDD) 2015 market research and other studies showed that lack of job protection has kept workers from taking Paid Family Leave for bonding or caregiving even though they pay into the fund.

This year, California Work & Family Coalition members celebrate the implementation of SB 63 (Jackson) which passed in 2017 and extends job protection to more new parents when they take bonding leave. This was a huge victory, and it took a few attempts and a lot of constituents educating lawmakers on how paid leave doesn’t work without the right to job protection. On January 1st, we started hearing from new and expecting moms and dads who can now use their Paid Family Leave without fear of retaliation. We need to extend the same right to family caregivers – we’re starting to work on that now.

Fighting to strengthen and expand job protection – the basic right to take leave – is going to become even more important to our national movement as we begin to hear Republican calls for “voluntary” employer-based Paid Family Leave laws and employer tax incentives. In our fight for equitable Paid Family Leave we can’t forget that we need job protection for our leave laws to truly lift up the health, well-being and economic security of families.

Join us on line as we celebrate #FMLA25. And, as we join our national partners and sister state coalitions, in calling for the passage of Paid Family Leave for all, don’t forget to also celebrate and call for the expansion of FMLA job protections so every worker can tend to their own health needs and be there for family without fear.

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