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20th anniversary of FMLA begs employment rights questions

This week marked a very important milestone in federal employment law. Twenty years ago Tuesday the Family and Medical Leave Act became law. Many people in Maryland are most familiar with the FMLA as the law that grants working mothers maternity leave; however the FMLA actually affords various leave rights to workers.

Under the FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees are required to offer employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for a medical illness, to care for a family member who has a medical illness, or for the birth or adoption of a child. In order for employees to take such a leave, they must have been employed by the employer for at least a year, having put in a certain amount of hours leading up to the leave.

Since the FMLA was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, more than 100 million U.S. workers have taken a family leave under the law. Many people may be surprised to learn that 40 percent of such leaves were taken by men, showing us that the law does in fact extend much further than maternity leave.

While the FMLA was a significant step for the employment rights of working families, many have argued that more must be done. For example, many people feel that FMLA leaves should be paid because there are many people in need of a leave who cannot take one because they cannot afford it. Others argue that all employers should be covered by the FMLA, and that more workers should qualify for leaves.

Of course, there is also the problem of employers not complying with the law and wrongfully denying leave requests or even retaliating against those who make requests. In these cases, workers may need to seek legal counsel to stand up for their rights.

Source: The Miami Herald, "FMLA still helping families cope with illness," Cindy Krischer Goodman, Feb. 5, 2013

  • Our law firm helps people exercise their FMLA rights in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. For more information, please visit our FMLA Claims page.

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