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NAW News

Workplace Leave Policies

updated February 2010
Legislative Issue Update - January 2010

 Several pieces of legislation have been introduced in the 111th Congress affecting workplace leave policies. Two of these would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). H.R. 389 (“Family Fairness Act”, Baldwin, D-WI-2 and 15 Democratic cosponsors) proposes to eliminate the FMLA’s hours of service requirement and cover part-time workers. H.R. 824 (“Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act”, Maloney, D-NY-14 and 13 Democratic cosponsors) proposes to provide FMLA leave to the workers of employers of 25 or more employees (the current cutoff is 50) and to provide FMLA leave for “parental involvement”. Both bills have been referred to the Committees on Education & Labor, Oversight & Government Reform, and House Administration. While little interest has been shown in extending FMLA leave to part-time workers, more interest has been shown in narrowing the small employer exemption and in adding events to “trigger” FMLA leave, so H.R. 824 has the attention of the employer community.

One expansion of the FMLA has was enacted in October 2010: enactment of the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Department Authorization Bill brought with it an expansion of the applicability of FMLA exigency and care-giver leave which was initially enacted one year ago to benefit military families. 

Several bills outside of the FMLA’s orbit affecting workplace leave have been introduced in the 111th Congress. These include H.R. 933 (“Family Friendly Workplace Act”, McMorris Rodgers, R-WA-5 and 17 Republican cosponsors), which proposes to permit private sector employees to take paid time off as compensation for working overtime hours. The measure has been referred to the Education & Labor Committee. A Republican bill in a Democrat-dominated Congress, this “comp time” bill isn’t expected to go anywhere in the 111th Congress.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA-13) and 35 Democratic cosponsors have introduced H.R. 1723, “Family Leave insurance Act of 2009”. Although the bill does not amend the FMLA, it provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for FMLA-like purposes. Unlike FMLA, it covers employees of employers of as few as two workers. This paid leave bill is not considered a good bet for enactment in the 111th Congress. The same is true for H.R. 1274, “Working Families Flexibility Act” (Maloney, D-NY-14 and 7 Democratic cosponsors), H.R. 2161, “Family and Medical Leave Restoration Act” (Shea-Porter, D-NH-1 and 33 Democratic cosponsors) which proposes to nullify recent changes to the FMLA regulations, and H.R. 2564, “Paid Vacation Act” (Grayson, D-FL-8 and 4 Democratic cosponsors).

Two bills that are opposed by NAW and the employer community generally but are considered strong candidates for enactment in the 111th Congress include:

“Healthy Families Act” (“HFA”) introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) and 121 Democratic cosponsors, including 22 (of 30) Democratic Members of the Education & Labor Committee (including all 7 Democratic Members of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee before which the bill is pending). A similar Senate bill was introduced by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). HFA is pending before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee where 9 (of 13) Democratic Members are cosponsors. The HFA would require employers of 15 or more employees to permit all workers (including part-time employees) to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours (7 days) of paid sick leave. The House bill was the subject of a summer hearing in the Education & Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee; and

“Emergency Influenza Containment Act” (H.R. 3991) was introduced in early November 2009 by Education & Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA-8) and referred to his committee. A hearing was held on the bill in mid-November. The measure has 12 Democratic cosponsors, all of whom are members of the Education & Labor Committee. H.R. 3991 applies to employers of 15 or more employees and requires those employers who direct/advise employees to stay home from work due to symptoms of a contagious illness to provide 5 days of paid sick leave. The bill would be effective 15 days following enactment and sunset after 2 years.