[Excerpt] No employment law matters more to America’s caregiving workforce than the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993. Since its enactment, millions of American workers and their families have benefited from enhanced opportunities for job-protected leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, to deal with their own serious illness, and when needed to care for family members.
After nearly fourteen years administering the law, two Department of Labor studies (1996, 2001) and several U.S. Supreme Court and lower court rulings, the Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division issued a Request for Information (RFI) on December 1, 2006.
The RFI asked the public to comment on their experiences with, and observations of, the Department’s administration of the law and the effectiveness of the regulations. More than 15,000 comments were received in the next few months from workers, family members, employers, academics, and other interested parties. This input ranged from personal accounts, legal reviews, industry and academic studies, surveys, and recommendations for regulatory and statutory changes to address particular areas of concern.
There is broad consensus that family and medical leave is good for workers and their families, is in the public interest, and is good workplace policy. There are differing views on whether every provision of the law is being administered in accordance with the statute and with congressional intent. It is also evident from the comments that the FMLA has produced some unanticipated consequences in the workplace for both employees and employers.
A report of this kind is a unique step. Normally, the organization of comments received in response to a Departmental Request for Information would first be seen accompanying proposed changes to the rules. There are no proposals for regulatory changes being put forward by the Department with this Report. Rather, what we hope this Report does is provide information for a fuller discussion among all interested parties and policymakers about how some of the key FMLA regulatory provisions and their interpretations have played out in the workplace.