NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Where Does The Family Leave Act Stop?

August 6, 1999

President Clinton and Vice President Gore are out to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act, regardless of the burden it places on employers and employees who must take up the slack when a fellow worker says he needs time off.

The 1993 law already requires employers to give workers up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid time off to care for a newborn or seriously ill family member or to treat a "serious health condition" of their own.

Proposals for expanding the law include applying it to companies with 25 or more employees rather than 50 as now stipulated, covering new situations such as parent-teacher conferences, and requiring employers to give employees a minimum of two hours off to vote. Clinton even wants employees taking leave under the act to be paid for it.

Opponents say the law is already creating enough headaches for employers without extending its reach.

  • A poll by the Society for Human Research Management reveals that 92 percent of companies respond to an employee's leave by assigning work to other employees, 71 percent say they also have to hire temporary replacements, 42 percent report delaying some work until an employee returns, and 23 percent resort to asking employees to work at home.
  • Employers say the Labor Department defines the act so loosely that they wonder whether colds, flu or nonmigraine headaches are covered.
  • From 1997 to 1998, the number of suits filed under the act doubled.
  • Since the intermittent leave sanctioned by the act can be as short as several minutes, the record-keeping demanded of employers by the Labor Department is an added strain.

Source: John Berlau, "Paid Time Off for Headaches?" Investor's Business Daily, August 6, 1999.


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