Category Archives: Family & Work

The Family and Medical Leave Act: A Report on the Request for Information

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, 2007

From press release:
The U.S. Department of Labor today released Family and Medical Leave Act Regulations: A Report on the Department of Labor’s Request for Information, a comprehensive review of the thousands of public comments received in response to the department’s December 1, 2006, Request for Information about the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations and their impact in the workplace.

“The 15,000 comments from workers, employers and others attest to the importance of family and medical leave for America’s caregiving workforce,” said Victoria A. Lipnic, assistant secretary of labor for the department’s Employment Standards Administration. “While family and medical leave is widely supported, we also heard from many workers and employers that there are challenges with the way certain aspects are being administered. This report provides information for a fuller discussion about how some of the key FMLA provisions and their interpretations have played out in the workplace.”

The comments highlight the prevalence with which unscheduled intermittent leave is being taken in certain workplaces. As the record indicated, this is the single most serious area of friction between employers and workers. Another major area of concern, on the part of workers, employers and health care providers, is the medical certification process.

The report is comprised of 11 chapters: 10 chapters on key regulatory issues, plus the first chapter, which describes the value of the FMLA to employees.

The Financial Vulnerability of Families

Source: Christian Weller and Kate Sabatini, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, Volume 50, Number 3, May-June 2007
(subscription required)

Few doubt that the housing boom is over. But the extent of the housing decline and its consequences for the economy are subject to much speculation. The authors present a detailed and comprehensive picture of Americans’ dependence on housing and are concerned about the extent of their vulnerability to future economic shocks.

How Family Leave Laws Left Out Low-Income Workers

Source: Ann O’Leary, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 28 no. 1, 2007

Recent media attention has focused on professional women who have “opted out” of the paid labor market to care for their children. By contrast, the media has paid less attention to low-income women who have been required to “opt in” to the workforce over the past ten years as a result of the nation’s overhaul of the welfare system. As women’s overall workforce participation has increased, low-wage working women have become much less likely to have access to pregnancy and family leave than their professional counterparts. This article examines the historical and legal development of this disparity.

The Work, Family, and Equity Index – How Does the United States Measure Up?

Source: Jody Heymann, Alison Earle, and Jeffrey Hayes, Institute for Health and Social Policy and Project on Global Working Families, 2006

When it comes to ensuring decent working conditions for families, the latest research shows many U.S. public policies still lag dramatically behind all high-income countries, as well as many middle- and low-income countries. This report is based on updated and expanded research used in the first Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?, released in 2004.

EEOC Issues New Guidance On Work/Family Balance And Promotes Employer Best Practices

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, May 23, 2007

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today held a public meeting focusing on employer best practices to achieve work/family balance, and issued a guidance document on how agency-enforced laws apply to workers with caregiving responsibilities.

The new guidance is being issued by the EEOC as a proactive measure to address an emerging discrimination issue in the 21st century workplace. The document, Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities, provides examples under which discrimination against a working parent or other caregiver may constitute unlawful disparate treatment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The guidance notes that changing workplace demographics, including women’s increased participation in the labor force, have created the potential for greater discrimination against
working parents and others with caregiving responsibilities, such as eldercare ­ all of which may vary by gender, race or ethnicity.

Also from the summary:

The guidance, available online along with a question and answer fact sheet, states: “This document is not intended to create a new protected category but rather to illustrate circumstances in which stereotyping or other forms of disparate treatment may violate Title VII or the prohibition under the ADA against discrimination based on a worker’s association with an individual with a disability.”

The Care Crisis

Source: Ruth Rosen, The Nation, Vol. 284 no. 10, March 12, 2007

For four decades, American women have entered the paid workforce–on men’s terms, not their own–yet we have done precious little as a society to restructure the workplace or family life. The consequence of this “stalled revolution,” a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, is a profound “care deficit.” A broken healthcare system, which has left 47 million Americans without health coverage, means this care crisis is often a matter of life and death. Today the care crisis has replaced the feminine mystique as women’s “problem that has no name.” It is the elephant in the room–at home, at work and in national politics–gigantic but ignored.

Mother Load: why Can’t America Have a Family-Friendly Workplace?

Source: The American Prospect, Vol. 18 no. 3, March 2007

Values Begin at Home, but Who’s Home?
In the struggle to balance work and family, work is winning.
By Heather Boushey

The Architecture of Work and Family
To have a job and a life, we need to redesign the national household.
By Ellen Bravo

What Do Women and Men Want?
Many of the same things — but our system contributes to gender conflicts over work, parenting, and marriage.
By Kathleen Gerson

The Opt-Out Revolution Revisited
Women aren’t foresaking careers for domestic life. The ground rules just make it impossible to have both.
By Joan C. Williams

Responsive Workplaces
The business case for employment that values fairness and families
By Jodie Levin-Epstein

Setting a Low Bar
By Ann Friedman

Atlantic Passages
How Europe supports working parents and their children.
By Janet C. Gornick

What About Fathers?
Marriage, work, and family in men’s lives.
By Scott Coltrane

The Mother of All Issues
What it will take to put work and family on the national agenda.
By Tamara Draut

Related Web-Only Content

Fighting Apart for Time Together
Why is all the activism for work/life balance split along gender lines? By Courtney E. Martin

Grade Inflation
Too many magazines and organizations set a low bar for honoring “family-friendly” companies. By Ann Friedman
A shorter version of this piece appeared in the print edition of the Mother Load special report.

What a Load
In the discussion about achieving work/life balance, men are getting a free pass. By Linda Hirshman

Father Load
A TAP Exchange on the role of fathers in achieving work/family balance. By Kathleen Gerson, Courtney E. Martin, Brian Reid, and Linda Hirshman

Pleading Their Case
Can “Family Responsibilities Discrimination” lawsuits change the workplace? By Jeanine Plant

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ Women Caring for Parents and Children

Source: Charles R. Pierret, Monthly Labor Review, September 2006, Vol. 129 no. 9

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey are used to estimate the number and characteristics of women 45 to 56 years old who care for both their children and their parents; these women transfer a significant amount of money to their children and time to their parents.

Pregnancy in Pieces: The Potential Gap in State and Federal Pregnancy Leave

Source: Sarah Stewart Holland, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2006, Volume 27, no. 2

… Pregnancy, childbirth, and bonding with a newborn are part of a continuous experience and should be treated as such under the Family and Medical Leave Act and complementary state leave laws. … As the Gerety decision shows, however, pregnant employees facing gaps in coverage have not always been successful when alleging disparate impact under anti-discrimination statutes. … The FMLA does not automatically cover a pregnant employee, like Gerety, who wants to use medical leave for illness related to gestation before childbirth. … While some employees, like Gerety, may be able to meet this higher standard because of the high-risk nature of their pregnancies, a pregnant employee attempting to receive medical leave for normal pregnancy-related illness would face a much stricter standard than a pregnant employee attempting to receive medical or parental leave for childbirth. … Specifically, Gerety would have exhausted her pregnancy-related illness leave two months before the birth of her twins, and she would have faced a larger gap without coverage then she actually faced under Hilton’s leave policy and the FMLA. … Second, courts continually refuse to see pregnancy as a medical condition unique to women and, therefore, that any leave policy affecting only pregnant women should be seen as per se discrimination as stated in the PDA. …