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Michigan Democratic Legislators Propose Legal Support and Protections for Working Parents

Working parents sometimes find it difficult to attend all of their children's activities such as school conferences or school plays because of career demands. The demands can be especially high when the new school year starts in September: curriculum night, parent-teacher conferences, etc. Unfortunately your job can sometimes be less than flexible.

A few Michigan legislators are considering a fix: a proposed law that would allow working parents to have the option of taking time off from work to attend their children's school activities, without the fear of retaliation. State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, said the Family Education Leave Act would provide unpaid leave for employees and also prohibit discrimination against workers who request or use the leave. A similar bill was introduced last year by a group of State House members led by Jim Ananich, D-Flint.

Family Educational Leave Act

The proposed bill is called the Family Educational Leave Act. It allows parents to ask for up to 10 hours of unpaid leave per child per year to attend academic activities. By limiting the number of hours a parent can take, the proposal attempts to balance the needs of businesses and the benefits of parental involvement in children's educational activities. Most workers are familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act; the federal law that provides a certain amount of leave time each year for workers to care for loved ones or to deal with their own serious health condition.

More Involvement Means More Success for Children

Most experts agree parental involvement in education is very important to boosting student success. With many working parents, parents and educators have a hard time scheduling educational activities so all parents can attend. Proponents of the bill say the Family Educational Leave Act would help to alleviate this problem by removing a great barrier to parental involvement in schools. The bill will probably be assigned to the Senate Education Committee or Labor Committee, and Johnson said he's optimistic the legislation will get a hearing despite Democrats being in the minority in both chambers.

What This Means for Workers

One of the most important parts of the bill is the prohibition on employers from firing, threatening, or retaliating or discriminating against parents for taking the unpaid leave. Just like retaliation protections under the FMLA and other anti-discrimination laws, this bill would mean Michigan workers for the first time would be empowered to support their children at school without the fear of punishment back at work. For questions on this article or other developments in the law of educational leave, contact the authors at NachtLaw.com.

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