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NAW News

Workplace Leave Policies

- January 2011

Several pieces of legislation were introduced in the 111th Congress addressing workplace leave policies. Remarkably, just two made it into Federal law – the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Bill which included an expansion of the exigency and care-giver leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enacted one year prior to benefit military families, and the “Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act to facilitate the ability of pilots and flight attendants to take FMLA leave. More important are the leave issues on which the 111th Congress “took a pass”, among which are: elimination of the FMLA hours of service requirement, allowing coverage of part-time workers, a narrowing of the FMLA small employer exemption, the addition of additional “triggers” for FMLA coverage, and mandatory paid leave.

One mandated leave issue that was thought a good candidate for enactment during the 111th Congress that didn’t go anywhere was the “Healthy Families Act”, a bill proposing to require employers of 15 or more employees to permit all of their workers (including part-timers) 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. Although the House bill had 126 cosponsors and the Senate bill 25, neither measure got as far as a committee vote.

Because the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections gave the Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives for the new 112th Congress and a substantially greater presence in the U.S. Senate as well, none of these issues is considered a good candidate for action in the foreseeable future.

One issue that may gain greater attention in the 112th Congress than was the case in the 111th is an employer community-backed comp time proposal. As introduced in the 111th Congress, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (R-WA-5) bill (H.R. 933, “Family Friendly Workplace Act”) would permit private sector employees to take paid time off as compensation for working overtime hours.