Family and Medical Leave Act: Happy Sweet 16

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

February 5 is always bittersweet for me. It marks the anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). That’s the sweet part.

This amazing law allows an employee to take unpaid leave from work to care for family or take medical leave when he or she is unable to work. It also grants leave for adoption or foster care. An employee has up to 12 weeks FMLA leave in any 12-month period.

The bitter part is that this time of year reminds me why I hold this law so dear.

Last year on February 9, four days after the 15th anniversary of FMLA, Nicole Wielgus, my 9-year-old sister passed away from a rare brain infection. Britney bravely fought her illness for nearly a month. She endured two brain surgeries, countless painful procedures, and neurological rehabilitation before she relapsed and was put into a medically induced coma that she never came out of.

During an overlapping time period, our father underwent three emergency surgeries and was in and out of the Intensive Care Unit of a different hospital.

Both Britney and my dad were hospitalized in Arizona; I live in Virginia and work in D.C. By some small miracle, my employer, the ACLU, offered paid FMLA leave, and D.C. had an additional FMLA provision that covered providing care to a blood relative with a serious medical condition. This combination of benefits allowed me to stay with Britney while she battled her illness, letting my mom to be with my dad while he was treated for his medical problems.

I cut Britney’s umbilical cord when she entered this world, I taught her to ride a two-wheeler, I took her to Disneyland; somehow, it seemed appropriate the I held her hand as she left this world. Britney hated to be alone more than anything, and my employer’s family leave policy allowed me to be with her so she was never alone while she was fighting for her life.

On February 13, 2008, we had a wake for Britney. My dad’s doctor agreed to grant him a one day pass to leave the hospital and attend Britney’s services. Unfortunately, the day of Britney’s wake my dad’s doctor informed me he needed emergency surgery and would not be able to attend the wake or the funeral. I used extended family leave to stay with my dad during the surgery. On Valentine’s Day — after burying Britney, I visited my father.

My mother’s experience was not as good as mine. My mom’s employer granted her FMLA leave which provided job protection and continued insurance coverage, but it was unpaid. Without both parents earning an income, my parents lost their home, their car, and filed for bankruptcy. Losing their material possessions was nothing compared to losing Britney, but it is made it harder for them to rebuild their lives.

I know our story seems so unlikely and uncommon. But it happens, and it can happen to just about anyone.

Britney was a normal healthy little girl until January 2008. My employer’s family leave policy goes beyond what is required by federal law and was the only reason I was able to receive paid, job protected leave during my family’s tragedy. Under current federal law, my absence from work to be with Britney would not have been covered. My leave to be with my father would have been unpaid. I would have been bankrupted, in addition to being heart-broken.

For Britney, for my family, and for all caregivers, I strongly urge you to tell your member of Congress to support legislation mandating paid FMLA coverage. Even without the current economic crisis, few Americans can afford FMLA to battle painful and serious illness.

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Justice4ALL

Please help the hard working women of Lafayette College. Six women have come forth to stop sexual harassment at the college. The pervert responsible for sexually harassing these women was sentenced to 18 months probation in a plea bargain. How could such a plea bargain be available this scares me. The man accused of the harassment is basically walking away untouched. He got his rocks off for years at these women’s expense. This man was put in a position to protect the college, its employees, and its students. Below are the local newspapers links to the articles. Please help these women return to there jobs. These women were scared to come forth because the man responsible carried a gun and must have had some kind of connection with college considering he worked there for 20 years. Lafayette is trying to sweep this under the rug and its working. I hope the ACLU can help these women and make it known that these type of actions will not just be swept under the table.

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b4_3lafayette.6769281feb04,0,2728419...

http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/easton/index.ssf/2009/02/sixth_woman_fil...

Permatemp

All these laws are moot.

The new workers are all PermaTemps, part time workers working two 25 hr a week jobs, "Guest" workers who are treated as indentured servants or just plain old Joe's who are so afraid of losing their job that you could poke them in the eye every morning and they would just say"thank you boss can I have another"

I worked THREE and A HALF years for a large medical insurance company, I had no medical insurance, no vacation, no sick days, and because I work in Information Technology I was not entitled to overtime pay.

I didn't complain as I was one of the few Americans who hadn't been replaced using the H-1B indentured servant program.

Cheap labor has created a second class of citizen in the US, and If your not willing to work at a lower standard of living they will replace you withe the "desperate and cheap" labor baited with the carrot of US citizenship and a favorable exchange rate.

Silly laws like this will just speed up the process of offshoring and importation of cheap workers.

Why would any for profet business use American laybor when you can get cheap labor from contries with:

No pesky
environmental regulations
Workers right to organize
Child labor laws
Prohibition of slavery
OSHA

Thanks to "Free" trade I can use child slave labor working with toxic materials, dump the waste into the environment and still sell that product at wallmart in the good old USA!

Go ahead and pass your silly laws, the MULTINATIONALS don't care. They will just find a way around them.

Anonymous

I went on an FMLA and had surgery. In my annual review after I returned the medical time off I took was used against me to place me on a90 day review. When I questioned my supervisor whether I would have a job after 90 days, he aluded I would not.
My reivew actually said "while you were on medical leave there were performance problems found with your work". I took a job as a clerk, at the same company, at less then 85 % that what I made as part of management. Doesn't seem FMLA protects your job while you are away.

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