Issue in Focus
Nov 15 2019
Strong marriages and families are the bedrock of our society. But to form that foundation, they need the time and flexibility, especially during critical times – like the birth of a new baby, the unexpected illness of a family member, or the aging of a parent.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was established to provide for these very needs. Signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, it provides unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons.
Unfortunately, the FMLA restricts the amount of leave that married couples who work for the same employer can take. Under current law, these couples are limited to taking a total of 12 weeks of combined leave to care for a new baby or sick family member.
In other words, the FMLA is currently penalizing married couples – unfairly punishing them if they happen to work for the same employer.
The federal government should not be in the business of punishing marriage.
That’s why this week, I joined with Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), and Tina Smith (D-MN) to introduce the Fair Access for Individuals to Receive Leave Act, or FAIR Leave Act.
This bill would fix this glitch in the law and restore equal benefits to married couples, regardless of their employer. It would enable eligible spouses to instead take 12 weeks of unpaid leave each, or 24 weeks total, in a 12-month period for the birth of a new child; the placement and adoption of a child; and the care of a parent with a serious health condition.
And not only that, but the bill would boost our military families as well. The FAIR Leave Act would allow eligible spouses to each take 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered servicemember – a spouse, parent, son, daughter, or specified blood relative – with a grave injury or illness.
It’s far past time that we modernize the Family and Medical Leave Act to make sure it addresses the needs of today’s families during the times they need it most. This bill would make sure that the law does so in a comprehensive, fair, and effective manner. American parents and families deserve no less.