Thursday, April 24, 2008

Family and Medical Leave Act: about to be weakened by Bush administration? What about paid family leave (some day)?

I discussed the issue of paid family leave on this blog March 4, 2008 with respect to some states (New Jersey), so I’m surprised (or maybe not surprised) to see the Bush Administration wanting to effectively weaken the 15-year-old Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. According the new rules under consideration at the Labor Department, employees wanting to use the FMLA will have to notify employers before absence, using normal call-in procedures, and submit to increase scrutiny of the health records (within HIPAA guidelines).

The detailed story is by Nancy Trejos in the Business section of the April 24 Washington Post, p D1, “Take Two on Time Off: Sweeping Changes Debated for Landmark Family and Medical Leave Act,” link here.

I did use short-term disability insurance when I had a convenience store accident in 1998, and the three weeks of full salary were most welcome. I never needed to take any more time off once I went back to work. That works in IT jobs, perhaps. But in 1999, I might have been in a delicate situation with respect to family leave, but I was able to avoid having to take much time off. But the scary incident showed how serious this issue could become. On another occasion, in 1993, I spent an uncompensated weekend with “on-call” for monthend support when co-worker gave birth.

Employers maintain that employees will misuse family leave, and that they must remain globally competitive. But I wonder then how European employers do it. (No, Chinese employers don’t.)

Still, some of this question comes down to (to be blunt): should those without children subsidize those with children with more labor for the same or less pay? Of course, eldercare could equalize the issue.

In the Post, Lori Montgomery reported recently that President Bush may veto a bill to make it easier for victims of unequal pay to sue for discrimination, story here.

Despite the complaints about the lack of corporate generosity with “workers,” Donna St. George reports on the front page of today’s Post, “For Children, a Better Beginning: Study finds progress on array of issues from birth to 10,” here.

Picture: Note the Embassy of Canada next to the Newseum. Canada does offer some paid paternal leave; look here.

Update: April 25

Tonight, ABC "World News Tonight" presented a story about employer "maternal profiling" in the hiring process. In 21 states (including Pennsylvania, as in the story) it is legal to ask marital status and about having children, but it is not legal to make hiring decisions based on them. PA is considering prohibiting asking. (That is, right now it is "do ask do tell"). The practice mainly hits female job applicants; for men, having children is seen as desirable, for women it sometimes is not. One female was told baldly that she was likely to cost her company health insurance plan too much.

The story by Gigi Stone is "Are You a Victim of Maternal Profiling?: In Some States, Women Say They're Not Getting Jobs Just Because They're Moms", link here.

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