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FAMILY Act introduced in Congress

The law currently protects women and men from certain kinds of leave-related discrimination in the workplace. For example, the law generally protects women from pregnancy discrimination associated with their need to take time off to have their babies and recover from the act of child birth. The law also generally protects men and women from discrimination when they need to temporarily take leave from their jobs to care for a newborn, an adopted child, themselves or a close family member who is ill.

However, the law does not generally require that employers pay for these acts of leave. Practically, this makes it difficult for some men and women to take leave when they need to because they cannot afford to lose income even when it is important to stay home and either rest or care for a new infant or ailing loved one. As a result of this challenge, new legislation was recently introduced in Congress that would create a paid medical and family leave insurance program.

This legislation is entitled the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, recently explained her motivation for introducing the bill. She noted that, “When a young parent needs time to care for a newborn child – it should never come down to an outdated policy that lets her boss decide how long it will take – and decide the fate of her career and her future along with it. When any one of us – man or woman – needs time to care for a dying parent – we should not have to sacrifice our job and risk our future to do the right thing for our family. Choosing between your loved ones and your career and your future is a choice no one should have to make.”

This bill will likely receive a great deal of support and a great deal of criticism due to its complex business-related consequences and the costs associated with such a program. But in the end, this bill may very well help Americans avoid leave-related discrimination and pay for their expenses at the same time when they need to take a temporary absence from their jobs for health-related reasons. Supporters of this bill may wish to contact their federal representatives and voice their opinions on this important piece of proposed legislation.

Source: Hudson Valley Press, “Family Medical Insurance Leave Act Introduced,” Jan. 1, 2014