News: U.S. Marks FMLA 30th Anniversary

  • Published
  • 6 February 2023
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  • News

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) marked the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act with stakeholder events, interagency outreach and launch of a dedicated webpage with updated resources, the agency reported. The act was passed on Feb. 5, 1993, during the Clinton administration.

The FMLA protects the rights of covered employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons and retain group health insurance coverage as if no leave was taken. After taking a leave, an employee must be returned to the same or an equivalent job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions, including shift and location.

Under provisions of the FMLA:

  • Covered employers include private-sector companies with at least 50 or more employees and public agencies, governmental entities and schools regardless of how many people they employ.
  • Employees are eligible for leave if they work for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months before leave starts and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. For remote workers, the location is defined as the place from which their work is assigned or to which they report.
  • Job-protected leave includes childbirth and adoption, having a serious personal illness, needing to care for an ill family member or reasons related to a family member’s military service. The majority of leave requests are for personal illness.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division reports it has recovered more than $63 million in back wages and successfully provided remedies such as restoration of jobs and benefits using FMLA enforcement provisions over the past 30 years. In fiscal year 2022, the division investigated 780 FMLA complaints and recovered more than $870,000 in back wages for violations ranked most significant.

The anniversary celebration was tempered by calls for expanded coverage. While nearly 463 million Americans have used the FMLA since its passage (15 million of them in 2022), about 44 percent of U.S. employees are not eligible for protected leave because they work for small companies, do not work enough hours or have not worked for their employer long enough, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families.