Union Activists Urged to Fight Proposals to Gut FMLA

March 6, 2008

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APWU President William Burrus has issued a call to action, asking the union’s officers and activists to fight proposed new regulations that would weaken the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

“The FMLA is the one of the most important pro-worker, pro-family laws in recent memory,” Burrus said. “It has worked well for both employers and employees. We must derail any attempt to dilute its effectiveness.”

The Department of Labor proposed new regulations on Feb. 11 that would require workers to provide more proof of their illness; to present documentation more often; and to relinquish medical information to non-medical personnel. The new rules also would allow management personnel to contact workers’ medical providers.

“If adopted, the regulations would make it far more difficult for workers to use leave under the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act,” Burrus said. 

“I encourage union activists to work with APWU members to show solidarity in opposition to these proposed changes by submitting comments to the Federal Register,” said APWU Legislative Director Myke Reid. Public comment on the proposals will be accepted through April 11. 

To submit comments, click here. To read more about the process, click here. 

Among the anti-worker regulations presented by the Department of Labor:

  • Employees with chronic conditions could be required to see their doctors more frequently than the current one time per year. Employees would have to pay for the extra visits out of their own pockets.
  • Employers could authorize anyone they choose to demand information to support FMLA absences; under the current rules, employees are required to share medical information only with medical professionals.
  • The proposed rules would widen the discretion of low-level supervisors to force employees to seek second medical opinions — at the employees’ expense— to determine the facts of a “diagnosis or prognosis.” Under current rules if those facts are unclear, the cost of a second opinion is charged to the employer.
  • Employees who typically work overtime could be charged overtime hours as FMLA leave during their absence. In other words, they risk using FMLA protection at a faster rate. 

The APWU is reviewing the proposed regulations and will file formal objections within the 60-day public comment period. The Labor Department is expected to publish final recommendations before the end of the year. 

“We take this very seriously,” Burrus said. “Due to the limited time to comment, we must make a swift and strong response.”

The FMLA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. It requires employers to grant eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period due to a serious health condition, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, to care for a newborn child, or for adopting a child or caring for a foster child.

The FMLA applies to government agencies and most businesses that employ 50 or more workers. To be eligible, employees must have worked for their employer for least 12 months and must have worked a minimum 1,250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding the FMLA leave. 

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