President’s Day and FML…A: a brief summary of FMLA and how America is under-supporting growing families

by Natalie McBride

President’s Day and FML…A: a brief summary of FMLA and how America is under-supporting growing families

According to this article from History Channel’s website, President’s Day became a national holiday in an effort to give workers more three-day weekends. Well that was a positive change made in the early 1970’s, because everyone loves a three-day weekend! When your child has no school, it’s nice to have the day off with them. While this wasn’t done for families, specifically, it got me thinking, what kind of positive change has been made since then, within the context of working families? Some major changes, actually, but nothing totally comprehensive. While we love a three-day weekend, growing families who work, need far more support than the extra family time they might get on a three-day weekend.

First Steps to Protecting Pregnant Mothers

After World War II, many women remained in the workplace, causing employers to reconsider their regard for female workers. The year after President’s Day was regarded as a three-day weekend, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated their guidelines to provide protection to pregnant workers. This is when pregnancy became known as a “disability”, lumped in with the same protections offered to those with temporary physical and mental disabilities. In five more years, the “PDA” — no, not public display of affection — “Pregnancy Discrimination Act” was signed into law, effectively amending part of the Civil Rights Act and thereby protecting pregnant and new mom workers from employer discrimination. Because this was still only a single piece of the larger puzzle of protecting working moms’ rights, activists forged ahead in seeking more, whole, protections for growing working families.

FMLA Protects Your Job, Not Your Pay

This more comprehensive protection would first take form in 1984, and after much back and forth across the congressional aisle, President Bill Clinton enacted the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in 1993, which protects a particular set of men’s and women’s jobs while taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a new baby, birthed or adopted, themselves or an immediate family member with serious health concerns. While this was certainly a positive change for working families, it’s protection is porous, leaving many Americans in a vulnerable position during a vulnerable time. Some are left out of these protections altogether, depending on a variety of credentials. One could argue many sides of this story, but the bottom line is the wealthiest developed nation on earth is in the company of eight underdeveloped countries who do not offer paid family leave. Talk about a let down…

New Legislation to Expand FMLA

Most recently, the “FMLA Modernization Act of 2018” has been presented to broaden the original FMLA protections by providing more time off as well as expanding the eligibility for its benefits. The act has many advocacy groups’ support including this list of national organizations:

2020 Mom;

9to5 National Association;

A Better Balance;

American Sustainable Business Council;

Center for American Progress;

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP);

Center for Parental Leave Leadership;

Family Values @ Work;

Federally Employed Women;

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.;

Interfaith Worker Justice;

Main Street Alliance;

MomsRising;

National Council of Jewish Women;

National Partnership for Women & Families;

National Women’s Law Center;

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice;

Oxfam America;

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law; Women Employed;

ZERO TO THREE.

Baby Boldly and Break the Silence

If you want to advocate for broader protections for yourself as a parent or your friends and family, consider connecting with one of those listed organizations who are working for the good of our American families. Keep up with current legislation, so that you can add your voice and further break the silence on the support that is so urgently needed for growing, working families.

I’ve filed for FMLA and utilized my short-term disability insurance benefits offered through my employer with both of my working pregnancies. I paid a fee for my OBGYN to complete my FMLA paperwork, I was paid 60% of my salary for up to 6 weeks and submitted a prescription for my free breast pump to my health insurer. It was a challenge, juggling all this paperwork, managing a loss of income while raising a newborn and putting my postpartum self back together, but I did my best to maximize the benefits available to me.

It’s baffling to comprehend that we’re the most developed nation providing the least amount of support to moms and dads who are starting/raising families. We know it’s possible for both businesses and families to thrive while extending support to moms and dads, because it’s happening all over the world. At Baby Boldly, we are committed to increasing awareness and advocating for this change in our America’s legislation and culture.

If you’ve ever had to file for FMLA, what was your experience? If you’re relying on FMLA during your maternity/paternity leave, what are your biggest concerns? Does your employer offer any benefits to you as a growing family before, during or after your leave of absence? How can the government best support you during your maternity or paternity leave? How will you raise your voice? Join us and #babyboldly.

Today’s Bold Momma

Natalie is co-founder of Baby Boldly, wife to James and mom to Abigail (4 years) and Mabel (1 year). Her passion (alongside pizza and chocolate) is with new moms and dads, striving to empower them for improved birth and postpartum experiences and changing the way society relates to new moms’ and dads’ unique needs.

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