While the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides twelve workweeks of leave to eligible employees for the birth of a child or the care of a sick loved one, the law as it currently stands provides no direct protection for families facing the death of a child. This lack of direct FMLA protection creates inconsistent results – employees who are diagnosed with illnesses triggered by the death of a child may have an entitlement to take FMLA leave for the treatment of their own serious health conditions, while others who have not sought medical treatment may fall outside the scope of FMLA protection.
Parental bereavement is an unfortunate reality for many adults across the country, and job protection has become a source of growing concern for those who must take time off in order to handle such a devastating loss. The Farley-Kluger Initiative, which grew out of the efforts of two grieving fathers, Kelly Farley and Barry Kluger, sought to remedy this protective gap. The initiative, which began as a grassroots effort, has developed into what is now known as the Parental Bereavement Act of 2013, an act that would amend the current FMLA in order to extend coverage of its existing benefits to employees who have experienced the death of a child.
The inability to take the proper time to grieve and recover without the pressure of returning to work to avoid potential job loss puts the employee at risk for developing medical, psychological, and emotional problems that would inhibit job performance and overall well-being in the long run. Employers and employees alike have begun to recognize the need for further protections not only for the sake of those grieving, but for the sake of employee retention and productivity. The loss of a worker as a result of insufficient recovery time poses the potential for financial losses to both the employer and the employee.
Nacht Law attorney Angela Walker commented, “People need space to grieve. A parent should not have to worry that their job is in jeopardy when they have just lost a child. The Farley-Kluger Initiative is a step in the right direction of providing better protection for employees.”
Further details on the Parental Bereavement Act can be found at: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr515/text
As of February 2013, the bill has been assigned to a congressional committee where it is currently being considered before possibly being sent out to the House or Senate as a whole. If you are interested in tracking the progress of the bill, you can do so by following this link:
National Public Radio has also recently featured a segment on the Parental Bereavement Act on “Here and Now.” A recording of the segment can be found at: http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/05/03/family-leave-act