March 27, 2008: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is once again under fire from Corporate America.
On Feb. 11, the Department of Labor issued proposals for changes that would open up new loopholes for employers to deny leave to workers who need to take time off for an illness or to take care of a family member.
These new rules are not a done deal. We have until April 11 to make our voices heard and help protect our family and medical leave.
Management’s Wish List
These new proposals read like a management wish list. Currently, an employee must give the employer verbal notice of why they are taking leave, and how long they expect to be out.
Under the new rules, an employee would have to tell the employer: (1) why they are taking leave and how long they expect to be out; (2) that they cannot perform their job functions or that a family member cannot perform his or her daily activities; and (3) whether or not they intend to visit a healthcare provider.
If an employee forgets any one of these magic words, the employer could deny their FMLA leave.
Another rule under consideration would make it harder for workers with chronic health problems—like back pain or asthma—to take intermittent leave.
The new rule would require a detailed back-to-work fitness report from a doctor every thirty days—even if a worker took only one or two days leave in that period. Workers on intermittent leave could have to get as many as 12 fitness reports a year.
What Can We Do?
The Department of Labor is accepting public comments on these new rules until April 11.
Employers are using this opportunity to flood the DOL with comments.
Many pro-labor attorneys, like Robert Schwartz, the author of the Legal Rights of Union Stewards and the FMLA Handbook, are already speaking up.
But the DOL needs to hear from us working Teamsters too.
Here’s what we can do to help stop these changes:
- Send in comments to the DOL. To comment online, go to www.tdu.org/fmla and follow the link at the bottom. You can use the sample comment in the box.
- Post bulletins at work. TDU has made a new bulletin to let members know about the proposed changes. You can download it at www.tdu.org/fmla. Be sure to post it on every open bulletin board where you
- Send an email to anyone who might be interested. This isn’t just for Teamsters—anyone can send in a comment. Go through your address book and send a note to everyone who you think might take action.
We can stop the DOL from watering down FMLA. Employers are using every tool at their disposal to win these new rules. Let’s get creative and get working to stop these changes.
by Frank Halstead, Local 572, Los Angeles
Help Defend FMLA: Send a Comment Before April 11Below is a sample comment you can send in to the Department of Labor to help defend FMLA. We have until April 11 to send in a comment to the DOL. You can send a comment online by going to www.tdu.org/fmla.
I am writing to comment on the new FMLA proposals that are currently under consideration as final regulations. I am a covered employee under the FMLA, and I am concerned that the new regulations will make it more difficult for me to take qualified leave.
Two new proposed regulations would make it harder for employees to exercise their right to leave under the FMLA.
The new regulations under sections 29 CFR Sections 825.302(b) and 303(b) are too technical and detailed, and could give employers an excuse to deny leave to workers who should qualify for the leave by requiring employees to say the “magic words” to properly notify employers of their leave.
The proposed Section 310(g) would also make it harder for workers to use the leave they are entitled to. By requiring a fitness report for even one day off work, this new rule would make it harder for workers who suffer from chronic ailments to take leave.
I urge you to re-consider these regulations.