WASHINGTON, D.C. - Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) today released the following statement in observance of the 11th anniversary of the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act this week:
“Eleven years ago this week (February 5, 1993), Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), under the stewardship of President Bill Clinton. This historic legislation was the first national policy of its kind that helps families find a workable balance between the competing demands of the workplace and the home. Demands on parents and families have only intensified over the last 25 years, as our nation has experienced dramatic social and economic changes affecting businesses and employees.
“In almost every family, a time comes when someone has a serious medical problem or a care-giving need that requires time off from work. Before the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees were limited in their access to family and medical leave. There were voluntary or collectively bargained employer policies, and policies required by state leave statutes.
“However, many voluntary policies did not provide leave for all the reasons offered by FMLA, especially to care for a seriously ill parent or spouse, or to be with a newborn or foster child. Leave was often handled on a case by case basis, and health insurance and job security were not necessarily always protected.
“The FMLA changed that, by ensuring job protection and the continuation of health benefits. FMLA provides workers at companies with more than 50 employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job protection for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for an immediate family member, or to tend to a serious health condition.
“Yet the FMLA is currently threatened by complaints that the Act is too broad and too strict. The Bush Administration, at the requests of employers, is conducting reviews of the FMLA and has indicated it would be open to altering provisions of the Act.
“The Family and Medical Leave Act is even more necessary today as more women are entering the labor force, and both health and care-giving needs are increasing with the aging baby boomer population. This means that employees depend on this legislation even more, eleven years later. We should not undermine or weaken this valuable and historic law by allowing it to become another casualty in the Republican attacks on worker rights and protections.”