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T he Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act was established in 1993. The act is designed to provide up to twelve weeks a year of unpaid leave for employees other than key employees for certain reasons, such as a serious medical condition experienced by the employee or a family member and the birth or adoption of a child. I believe that expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act is not only unnecessary, but it could hurt our economy.

When the act was implemented in 1993, many firms had to adjust their policies. Most of these adjustments were due to maternity and paternity leave. Statistics show that in 1996 that 78% of women and 54% of men used their available full twelve weeks of leave under the act.(Waldofogel, 1999) That is a large percentage of the workforce that was out for up to twelve weeks. According to statistics many firms allow up to six months for maternity or paternity leave, although not common, this could cause a serious problem.(Hoyle, 1995) If the federal government were to extend their mandatory coverage where will it end, ten month, one year and before long we will all be on leave. The twelve weeks of leave established by the government is a reasonable time period and if firms want to extend their policies to benefit their employees they are allowed to do so. By keeping the act at a set twelve weeks the employer has an opportunity to have some regulation on how long the employee may miss work after that time frame.

The act should remain unpaid to help encourage workers to return to work. By making the twelve weeks a paid time period could cause several problems. This would allow an employee to get paid for three months of no productivity. That can cause a considerable amount of loss for a company. Take an employee for instance that is bringing home about $1000 per week. This employee would cost the company $12,000, assuming they stayed gone the allowable twelve weeks. So now you have an employee who hasn?t worked in three months that made $12,000 for doing nothing. To most firms that is not a obsolete amount of money. This one person will now have affected production and overhead. Using the statistics from above we can see that if 78% of women and 54% of men are taking their twelve weeks of leave and getting paid for it, there will be a considerable amount of money lost by companies. This will not only affect employers, but consumers as well. If companies are shelling out money to employees who are not even working, then they will have t make up for it somewhere and that is where the consumer comes in. Prices will go up and we will be forced to pay a higher price because all these people are getting paid to not work.

Another area of concern would be the extention of the outlines for leave. There have been many cases where an employee has tried to take advantage of the allowable leave time. For example. In Bond v Abbott Laboratories, an employee requested FMLA leave for routine tooth extraction. The court rejected the employee?s claim, because there was no evidence that the employee would be incapacitated.(Platell,1999) The extention of the act in the this area should not be a reasonable issue. The courts have determined that there are a broad number of aliments that fall under the category of serious health conditions. If the government continues to allow workers take FMLA leave for any inadequate reasons no one will be working. The government should stick with the provisions that they were first concerned with considering serious illness.

In another such case a company gave their employee thirteen weeks of paid leave. She argues that she was not notified that this was her FMLA leave. After the thirteen weeks of leave she was asked to return to work, but she thought that she had an additional twelve weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. The Department of Labor states, ?The statue was intended to provide twelve weeks of FMLA leave, with the employer having the right to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave.(Zachery,1999) This is another example of employees trying to take advantage of the FMLA leave. ?It?s only going to hurt our economy when the government continues to allow minor illness take the place of serious conditions under FMLA?, says Keri Unowsky, a writer for Employee Relations Journal.(Unowsky,1998)

Our business economy today is growing at an alarming rate. Laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act can be beneficial, but only when they are not taken out of context. The twelve weeks of unpaid time off amounts to a substantial period. The employers have the right to pay these employees if need be, but the government should not force them to be paid. By keeping the outlines for FMLA leave within a strict guideline the law will not be taken advantage of as much. As a country we have the responsibility to protect our citizens, but by expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act I believe we would be doing an injustice to us all.


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