When President Clinton signed the Family Medical & Leave Act in 1993, he created a brand new avenue for American workers to manage their work-life balance. Thus far, the act has helped thousands of families focus on spending time with their kids during the times in life when parents are needed most. New mothers now have the security of knowing that when they take a maternity leave, there will be a job waiting for them if they decide to return. The other major advantage is that it has allowed families with troubled children to play a more influential part in helping their children turn themselves around. Ever since the act took effect, numerous studies have taken place about its effectiveness. Employees and employers have also challenged it.
State and local governments have taken the act and expanded upon it, making it ever more useful. This paper will examine some of these stories and discuss the possible ramifications of these events. A study in March of this year, conducted by Children Defense Fund of Minnesota, showed that only 4% of Minnesota employers offer paid leave for new parents. The federal law requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave at companies with fifty or more employees. The Minnesota law required only six weeks of unpaid leave at companies with twenty or more employees.
The Childrens Defense Fund is proposing a voluntary program that would use state tax money to cover up to 1/3 of the salary of any parent on leave if the employer covers at least another third. If this legislation passes, it could make it much more realistic for parents to take the entire time allotted to them off. President Clinton said in February 2000 that he would like to expand the act to include twelve week paid vacations for new parents. He proposes allowing states to use excess employment funds paid for by business.
The one major drawback of this proposal is that unemployment insurance is paid to states by business as a buffer against temporary economic downturn. Using these funds for more general purposes could cause these funds to bankrupt if a recession were to occur. 20 million employees out of an eligible workforce of 92 million have used the act at least once. Recently, Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed employees to use family leave to care for a domestic partner. This bill would have expanded leave to include care for siblings, adult children, and grandparents.
Opposition to the bill stemmed from the possibility that people may apply the bill to care for their homosexual life partners. Jeff Sheehy, director of Equal Benefits Advocates stated in response to the governors decision Hes denying us our basic humanity. Hes saying our partners arent as important as his wife. In a state that has a high homosexual population, this is a move that may play a major role in Gov. Davis re-election campaign. As recently as May 10th of this year, the Family Medical & Leave Act has been challenged.
Gerard McDavitt, former Vice President of Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos, a Boston advertising agency, is suing his former employer for violations under the act. Mr. McDavitt was fired while on leave for cancer treatments and its related depression. The agency claims that McDavitt had taken four weeks more than the act had allowed, and thats why he was fired.
McDavitt countered that his supervisor had told him to take as much time away as needed. McDavitt claims that he continued to work from home during that time. McDavitts leave was being fully funded by the company. Even an act that is 198 pages long can be interpreted as vague. Seven years after its implementation, there remains a lot to be discussed and discovered.
What comes first, a family or a career? The career track VS. the parent track. Do you build a family once you have securely established yourself in the workplace, knowing that you will be able to finance such a task? Or do you find a spouse who will support you and have children before you get to wrapped up in your career, since you could miss your child’s adolescence? Isn’t that why you wanted the child in the first place, to watch