Monday, June 27, 2005

NATHAN NEWMAN posts about growing efforts by the business lobby to place new limitations on employees' rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In particular, business interests want to rein in the part of the FMLA that permits employees to take small chunks of time (like a few hours, or a day) to meet personal or family medical needs. Under the FMLA, employees are allowed a total of 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave for serious medical conditions affecting the employee or a close family member; or to care for a child following birth or adoption. But many family medical issues don't require days or weeks away from work at a stretch; the need might be to take a loved one to a doctor for a chemotherapy appointment, or to spend a few hours in physical therapy, or to be at a child's bedside when she's dying.

Employers are complaining that employees are using these small chunks of time to cover chronic lateness, or to take a day off to go to the beach. They are pushing for the right to talk to employees' doctors to make sure the employee is telling them the truth. They want to amend the law to require that employees take time off only when their illness or their family member's illness is serious enough to require at least 10 days off at a stretch. In other words:

...unless your illness is immediately about to kill you TOMORROW, you wouldn't be given time off to visit a doctor or therapy, essentially gutting the FMLA for anyone not on death's door.

Again: any time off under the FMLA, of whatever length, is unpaid. Advocates for workers' rights and even some employers say that charges of employee abuse are exaggerated -- especially when contrasted to the benefits of a law that enables people to be with family members at a time of great need without fear of losing their jobs. Happy, satisfied employees; employees who feel themselves to be treated fairly by their employers, do not abuse privileges. Employees who do not feel respected or fairly treated by their employers, or who do not find their jobs fulfilling and satisfying, will come in late and take days off with or without the FMLA. Absenteeism and slacking off on the job did not start on the day the FMLA was signed into law.

But if you want to know the crux of the issue for employers, here it is:

[Sarah] Pierce, manager of employment legislation at [the Society for Human Resource Management] says the way the current law is written can hurt profits. Complying with the FMLA cost employers $21 billion in 2004, according to an analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation, a public policy research group based in Washington.

So let's ask the question as it's been asked so many times before: Which is the rock bottom, most fundamental value of Republicans and conservatives -- healthy, stable, loving families; or corporate profits?

You know the answer.

Hat tip to Charles at Freiheit und Wissen for the link to Nathan Newman.

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