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Lawmakers hope to broaden FMLA benefits for married couples

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires public and most private sector employers in Florida and around the country to provide their workers with job protection while they take unpaid leave to tend to qualified family and health-related matters. Under the law, eligible workers are able to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period to recover from a serious illness, take care of an ailing parent or tend to the needs of a new baby. However, the landmark 1993 law allows employers to require married couples to share this unpaid leave.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle believe that married couples should not be penalized in this way because they work for the same employer. A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 14 that would end restrictions for married couples and allow spouses who share a workplace to each take the unpaid leave allowed under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The bill also allows married couples to take 26 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of an injured or ill relative who is a member of the armed forces. The bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sponsors of the Fair Access for Individuals to Receive Leave Act include senators from Utah, Minnesota and Arizona and representatives from Michigan, California, Pennsylvania and New York. The legislation is supported by the Military Officers Association of America, the Independent Women's Forum, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the National Education Association.

Attorneys with employment law experience may take legal action against employers on behalf of workers who have been denied the leave they are entitled to under the law. Attorneys may also advocate on behalf of workers at the negotiating table and in court when they are fired or otherwise retaliated against for taking unpaid leave to care for a new child or tend to a covered medical emergency.

Source: Representative Haley Stevens, Rep. Stevens Introduces Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Close Family Leave Loophole, Press release, Nov. 14, 2019

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