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Senator proposes eliminating the 'un' in unpaid FMLA leave

When we meet someone new in Boca Raton or elsewhere, one of the first things that we often learn about the other person is what they do in life. Be they a doctor, lawyer, nurse, IT specialist, technician, plumber, teacher, CEO or any other professional, we are often recognized by our job. For a long time, the law also seemed to assume that people were defined by their jobs.

The Family and Medical Leave Act was put into place in 1993 to address the fact that individuals have lives outside of the office. The legislation allowed employees to take leave to care for their own health or a family member without fear that they would lose their job as a result.

As it currently stands, the FMLA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks per year, but there is one major problem with this piece of legislation, says U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. What is that problem? It is unpaid leave.

Why is the word “unpaid” such a problem? Sen. Gillibrand said that it still forces someone to choose between their family and their job. The thing about unpaid leave is that many people cannot afford to go without a paycheck during that time. Her solution is to amend the FMLA to provide employees with paid leave.

Like every other idea, there are details that need to be worked out. One of these details is how that paid leave would be funded. Her plan is to create an independent trust that would be administered by the Social Security Administration. The trust would be funded by employees and employers. The idea is to have employees pay 0.2 percent of their wages. This amount would then be matched by the employer.

Whether the leave is unpaid under the current law or paid under an amendment in the future, employers will still be required to protect the employee’s job. Employers that fail to honor this requirement or take any other adverse employment actions against a worker based on FMLA leave can be held liable in an employment lawsuit.

Source: CBS, “Gillibrand Pushes For Paid Family And Medical Leave For Nominal Cost To Workers,” Jan. 23, 2014

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