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Twentieth Anniversary Of Fmla

Sen. Michael Bennet

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Mr. President, today I wish to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the enactment of The Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA. For 20 years, this historic law has helped individuals balance their family and work obligations. As a husband, and the father of three daughters, the flexibility to care for your family and children without the fear of losing your job is invaluable.

The passage of the FMLA represented a broad, bipartisan Congressional effort to improve working conditions for American families. Since the FMLA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993, workers have used it more than 100 million times to take job-protected leave. Under the FMLA, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child or placement of a foster child. An employee can also use the FMLA to care for a spouse, child or parent suffering from a serious health condition.

At the core of the FMLA is the concept of flexibility. And that idea--not just flexibility in taking leave, but flexibility across the board, in all facets of the workplace experience--is something we must strive for in today's office environment. We must allow our workers to be productive and commit themselves to their jobs, while also allowing them to be great parents.

In my home State of Colorado, we have expanded the benefits under the FMLA by adopting two additional State leave policies--Domestic Abuse Leave and Colorado Small Necessities Leave. Under Domestic Abuse Leave, employees who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may take leave in order to seek various medical and legal services. Colorado Small Necessities Leave allows workers to take 18 hours of unpaid annual leave each school year in order to participate in their children's school activities, including attending parent/teacher conferences.

Despite the vast improvements in practices since the enactment of the FMLA, our country still has a ways to go. Most part-time workers and nearly half of full-time workers are not eligible for leave under FMLA. And millions of employees who are eligible cannot afford to take unpaid leave. With this is mind, this law must not be considered an end, but instead a first step in the right direction--there is room for improvement. For example, we should consider expanding the definition of a family to include members of the LGBT community.

But it is a worthwhile start, and so again, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the FMLA. I hope we can use the upcoming session of Congress to look for ways to strengthen this important law.