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June 24, 2005

Attack on Family/Medical Leave Act

One of the federal workplace victories of the 1990s was the Family and Medical Leave Act, a basic right of people to have a child or get sick without fear of losing their job.

Now, business lobbies are mounting a new campaign to rollback the law and their focus is limiting rights for people with chronic illnesses. The Department of Labor is beginning to rewrite regulations on the FMLA law, while Republicans in Congress are holding hearings that attack employee "intermitent" use of the FMLA for care that may involve an hour or two a week of doctor's visits or therapy:

The groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, want a more precise description of what would qualify as a serious illness.

One suggestion: that the law cover only illnesses serious enough to require 10 or more days off...

"Opponents see this as an opportunity to make major changes that would dramatically roll back protection for working families," says Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "This could wind up affecting millions of workers. Employers could refuse to grant FMLA, and you'd have no job protection."

Basically, unless your illness is immediately about to kill you TOMORROW, you wouldn't be given time off to visit a doctor or therapy, essentially gutting the FMLA for anyone not on death's door.

The sad fact is that the FMLA doesn't even require companies to pay you for time off. Yet employers begrudge employees even unpaid time off to visit a doctor.

And compare this to conservative rhetoric around rolling back overtime pay in favor of "flextime." Only when workers are getting a pay cut does the rightwing suddenly talk about families needing flexibility to deal with health or other family needs.

But they shudder with horror at the thought that employers should show such flexibility with workers seeking flextime using the FMLA.

Which just reflects that the rightwing's only consistent position is to cut pay for workers and fatten shareholder profits-- when they talk about anything else, it's all just cynical rhetoric.

Posted by Nathan at June 24, 2005 06:42 AM