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Public Statements

Recognizing the 20th Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DANNY K. DAVIS of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, this February marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act afforded millions of employees leave of their jobs for personal and family emergencies while keeping their job security intact. This bill expanded access to extended medical leaves to millions of workers and military caregivers enabling these citizens to take a leave intermittently whenever medically necessary to care for a loved one with a serious injury or illness.

The Family and Medical Leave Act has afforded millions of Americans with up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in one year for family and health events without jeopardizing their employment or their health insurance. Since enactment, American families have used the law more than 100 million times. The law has given mothers and fathers the ability to care for a new baby or a seriously-ill child. The law has helped adults caring for a sick spouse, child, or parent with serious health conditions--a protection that will grow exponentially in importance as the generation of baby boomers age.

Despite the strides we have taken in protecting our workers, many Americans are not able to take advantage of the time off and protections offered under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For example, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the law, leaving tens of millions of workers ineligible. The need for continued improvement to federal law is clear from the story of Toya, as told by the Family Values at Work organization. Working as a substitute teacher at the grade school level, Toya needed to take time off to care for her sick children. After several days her boss posed a question to her that should never be asked: ``What's more important, your children or your job?'' Upon choosing her children, she was told her services were no longer needed. Federal law should not condone, support, or facilitate these situations.

The anniversary of this legislation provides an opportunity to re-affirm that our nation is committed to fair benefits for all workers and to serve as a launching point to strengthen federal laws protecting workers. I celebrate this law and the relief it provides daily to millions of Americans, allowing them the ability to securely take leave from work in order to accommodate emergencies. Such protections constitute a worker's right, not a privilege. On this anniversary, we should examine the law's success as well as areas for improvement. I celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the piece of mind it gives families so that they can care for loved ones knowing that their jobs will be waiting for them.


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