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August 11, 2003
10 Years of FMLA: Advocates Want Expansion, HR Pros Want Clarification

Ten years after the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act, workers' advocates are pushing to expand the law, and human-resource professionals are asking the government to clarify what medical conditions qualify an employee for leave under the act.

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In the San Francisco Chronicle, Stephanie Bornstein and Charlotte Fishman, staff attorneys with Equal Rights Advocates, wrote that they want Congress to expand FMLA to cover employers with fewer than 50 employees.

The advocates also say many workers eligible for FMLA leave don't take it because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. Bornstein and Fishman urge lawmakers in federal and state government to follow California's lead and give workers the right to paid family and medical leave. They also call on more employers to boost the amount of sick leave, offer flexible work schedules, and help with child care.

Meanwhile, the Society for Human Resource Management is requesting that the Department of Labor specify through regulations what medical conditions qualify under FMLA.

"At this point, organizations are struggling with employees who request the use of FMLA medical leave for minor ailments such as pink-eye and sore throats," says Susan R. Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM. "The inconsistencies and contrary definitions from the Department of Labor have served to chill the voluntary expansion of paid leave policies in some workplaces."


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