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20 years later, Medical Leave Act helping workers, families

The act Clinton signed in 1993 offers workers a guarantee they have a job to come back to; it also can be a headache for employers.

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"As an employee, I think it was overdue," Wilson said. "We needed a way to protect workers and this [job protection] provides one less piece of stress during a health crisis. Prior to FMLA, we saw people lose their jobs because of a sick child, and that’s not right."

Wilson predicts that family-friendly business practices and legislation, such as lowering the 50-employee requirement of FMLA and promoting flexible work hours, will continue.

At a glance

The Federal Medical Leave Act

Under FMLA, qualified employees are guaranteed time off from work for medical reasons. To quality:

» An employee must have worked at the company for at least a year, working at least 1,250 hours during that time.

» An employee must have a serious health condition, be the caregiver of a family member with a serious health condition, be the parent of a newborn or adoptive child or be next of kin for a covered active duty military service member.

» Only businesses with 50 or more employees must comply with FMLA.

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"The FMLA will continue to be tweaked, depending on the feeling in Washington," she said.

According to HR.BLR.com, an online resource for human resource managers, recent changes include expanding leave for employees who are caring for a military spouse, parent, son or daughter, as well as revised eligibility requirements for airline flight crew employees, such as pilots and flight attendants. Local jurisdictions are also getting in on the act, with states such as Washington implementing a paid family leave law in 2015 and cities such as Philadelphia requiring companies that do business with the city to provide paid leave to their full-time employees.

All of this is good for workers such as new mom Hunter. She contrasts her experience with a neighbor who works for a very small company and does not qualify for FMLA.

"It’s definitely been an advantage for me personally," Hunter said. "As a mother, it’s been great."


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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