People are familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires larger companies to hold an employee’s job open while they care for their own health, or a family member. However, the FMLA only requires that unpaid leave be provided. The United States is the only developed country in the world without a paid leave law for its workers.
In response to this gap, many states and cities are taking matters into their own hands. Rhode Island is the latest state to pass a law requiring a modest amount of paid leave (3 days in 2018, increasing to 5 in 2020) to allow employees time to care for themselves, a sick loved one, or “safe time” to deal with domestic violence or sexual assault issues.
Business advocates typically resist such laws as costly and detrimental to business, but similar laws in Connecticut and San Francisco have not resulted in negative business profits.
While we continue to debate these laws, other countries take them for granted. An Italian woman successfully advocated that her employer grant her paid leave to care for her sick dogs, commenting, “They are my family.” Because her employer agreed voluntarily (in response to intense pressure from the woman and an animal rights group), no legal precedent was set. But the example shows the contrast between the U.S. and other countries in how they approach leave.
The FMLA does protect an employee against interference or retaliation, including use of intermittent leave, which permits employees to care for recurring health problems of themselves or family members. The attorneys at NachtLaw can counsel and assist you if you believe your FMLA rights have been violated.
(News sources: Huffington Post, 9/20/17; New York Times 10/12/17)