Mamas On Bedrest: FMLA is “Useless” for 40% of The Workforce

February 25th, 2013

Hey Mamas,

I was just cruising through my e-mails and got a Google alert about Family Medical Leave (FMLA). The article, published on Journalgazette.net, chronicles the story of Danelle Buchman of Clarkesville, MD. Buchman lost her job as a result of being out, and nearly dying, giving birth to her second daughter.

Buchman, now a mama of 2 little girls, had a uterine artery rupture while she was pregnant with her second daughter at 32 weeks gestation. Her daughter was delivered by emergency c-section and Buchman had an emergent hysterectomy to save her own life. When Buchman recovered and returned to her job, she was first demoted and given a 33% salary cut. She was subsequently fired. It’s not that Buchman had done anything wrong, quite the contrary. She had an outstanding employment record. But her time off due to illness resulted in her termination.

This is not unusual. The US Department of Labor conducted a study and they found that 40% of employees are not eligible for the unpaid leave with job protection benefit offered by FMLA. While this law has been on the books for 20 years now, a full 40% of US employees cannot benefit from it because they work for companies that employ fewer than 50 employees, were employed for less than a year with the particular company or had already used the FMLA benefit within the past 24 months and are hence exempt from the FMLA provisions. So Buchman who was out fighting, for her life, was legally fired as a result.

The law is also very difficult to enforce. Companies are not always obligated to allow the unpaid leave and there have been nearly 6000 court cases against companies that fired workers or otherwise penalized them for taking advantage of FMLA.

Once again, The lack of any sort of paid family leave is leaving families in a financial lurch. It is a travesty that the United States has such little regards for families. The United States, along with Papau New Guinea and Swaziland remain the only countries out of 177 that offer no sort of paid parental medical leave. And while family friendly organization such as the National Partnership for Women and Families and Working Mother are fighting diligently for paid family leave, that reality is still, by many estimates, years away. And that won’t help people like Buchman.

“I was lucky. My husband had a job, and we went into crazy credit card debt. But so many people who don’t have the support system I had are one accident, one illness away from losing their livelihood.”

And that is the fearful fate of many Americans. We can do better and we here at Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond will continue to support and help those on the front lines continue this all important fight.

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