Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘9to5’

FMLA Anniversary: Celebrating 20 Years of Strengthening Families

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Anyone with common sense would agree that healthy families are essential to a robust economy. That’s why it’s worth celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act on February 5; one of the most significant advances for working families in our nation’s history. In 1993, FMLA transformed the workplace and strengthened the American family by helping millions of workers secure job-protected leave to recuperate from a serious illness, give birth or adopt a new child, or take care of a seriously ill family member. Prior to FMLA, many people lost their jobs when these types of life events occurred. Workers have used FMLA more than 100 million times since its enactment during the Clinton administration.

 

Diane, a Denver teacher for ten years, was able to keep her job while battling cancer, thanks to the FMLA. The mother of a young son at the time, Diane said “I was able to take time off because I qualified for FMLA.  Because I [also] had access to paid sick days, and a paid sick leave bank, I was able to get some wage replacement while I was out for three months.”  Diane was one of the fortunate ones, because she had access to FMLA and a paid sick leave bank that helped keep her financially afloat.

As critical as FMLA continues to be in protecting jobs and families, there are major gaps in the law. FMLA’s biggest weakness is that it’s unpaid.  Seventy-eight percent of covered employees who need FMLA, don’t take it because they can’t afford to.  And almost half of all workers lack job protection under FMLA because they haven’t worked for their employer long enough, they’re not scheduled for enough hours, or the size of their company is too small to make them eligible. The definition of “family” also needs to be expanded beyond spouses, children and parents so that the law is more relevant to real peoples’ lives and caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, the reasons someone can take leave are severely limited in the law.  In addition to improving FMLA, paid sick days need to be expanded to cover more routine illnesses and preventive care that aren’t covered by FMLA.

Women in low-wage jobs are least likely to have any paid sick, personal, or vacation time at all, leaving one of the most vulnerable segments of our workforce unprotected. Ten percent of women who did take FMLA ended up on public assistance.

Sonya worked full-time as a medical interviewer for 11 years at a large hospital in Atlanta.  During her pregnancy, she saved up money totaling two months of expenses to help her pay her bills while she was on FMLA. But when Sonya’s son was born prematurely and placed in intensive care and she needed to take additional time off to care for her medically-fragile son, she used up her leave and savings pretty quickly. Even though Sonya had access to FMLA, she ended up on public assistance and struggled to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, many people are still forced to go to work when they need to be at home caring for themselves or their families. Americans agree that there’s nothing more important than taking responsibility and caring for your family members.  After 20 years, it’s time to make FMLA more affordable and accessible. Our country needs healthy and economically secure families to help fuel a strong, thriving economy.

To read additional stories from hardworking Americans who have benefited from FMLA, as well as those unable to do so because of a lack of accessibility or affordability, click here. Their voices make a strong case for strengthening and improving FMLA so that more of us are able to balance responsibilities at home and on the job.

This article was submitted by the new website 9to5.

About the Author: Linda Meric is the National Public Relations Coordinator at 9to5.

National Influenza Vaccination Week Calls for Paid Sick Days

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Statement of Linda Meric

Executive Director – 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Denver, CO, January 10, 2010 — The Department of Health and Human Services has declared this week “National Influenza Vaccination Week” in the United States to encourage more widespread flu vaccination and call attention to the possibility of a third mass outbreak of H1N1 flu in the U.S.

Americans – especially those with chronic health conditions who may not realize they are at high risk for developing complications from influenza – are warned not to become complacent because of the lack of  H1N1 news coverage and make decisions to skip the vaccine altogether.

But the United States faces another hurdle in ensuring that those who need the vaccine most receive it:  the lack of a national paid sick days policy.

Too many American workers lack the time they need to get themselves and their families vaccinated because they do not have access to paid sick days. For these workers – many of them low-wage workers struggling mightily to make ends meet in a tough economy — taking the time away from work to be vaccinated might mean the loss of pay or even a job.

Nearly 60 million workers lack paid sick days on the job and nearly 100 million do not have a single paid sick day in which to provide preventive care for a child or other loved one. The lack of this basic labor standard means that workers who deal with the public, like waiters and child care aides, often go to work sick, jeopardizing others because they cannot afford to lose pay in this tough economic time. It also means that they do not have the time for preventive care – like getting a flu vaccination or getting children vaccinated.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid sick days policy. But lost productivity due to sick workers costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research actually found that, while a paid sick days policy would impose modest costs, the estimated business savings total $11.69 per week per worker from lower turnover, improved productivity and reduced spread of illness.

So, in addition to catching us up with the rest of the world, and ensuring the public health, paid sick days are good for business and good for our economy.

As we again consider the impact of H1N1 flu, we must move decisively toward passing the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation, currently pending in Congress that would guarantee paid sick days for American workers, ensuring that all Americans have the time to care for themselves and their families.

For interviews, or for more information on 9to5 and our paid sick campaigns, contact Public Relations Coordinator

Rosemary Harris Lytle at (303) 628-0925 or visit www.9to5.org.

About the Author: Linda Meric, a nationally-known speaker on family-friendly workplace policy, is executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women. A diverse, grassroots, membership-based nonprofit that helps strengthen women’s ability to win economic justice, 9to5 has staffed offices in Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose. Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

On International Women's Day, Let's Have Paid Sick Leave

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

It was more than a hundred years ago that women workers in New York’s garment industry joined to protest poor working conditions: long working days, low pay and no voice in the decisions made in their workplace.

As we observe International Women’s Day 2009, the holiday designed to honor courageous working women in the past, present and future, it’s important to remember that we are still working to win workplace rights and achieve economic justice.

It’s important to note that 57 million workers still don’t have a single paid sick day and more than 100 million workers don’t have a single paid sick day, even to care for a sick child. This must change. Especially in these tough economic times, it’s critically important that America give its workers the time to care for themselves and their families without fear of losing a day’s pay, or worse, their jobs.

This is an issue of economic justice – and also an issue of public health. The very workers who lack paid sick days are the ones who take care of our children in daycare centers, care for our elderly in nursing homes and serve us our food in restaurants. Does a side order of the flu go with those fries? The lack of paid sick days is also a business threat because companies where workers lack paid sick days see decreases in productivity and in profits.

Some gains have been made.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the country to establish paid sick days as a basic labor standard. In 2008, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously approved an ordinance guaranteeing paid sick days for private sector workers. In the city of Milwaukee, a broad coalition – led by 9to5, National Association of Working Women – promoted a paid sick days ballot measure. Last November, with nearly 70 percent approval, voters adopted it.

But there is work to do.

The Healthy Families Act is federal legislation that would guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from illness or care for ill family members. Our elected leaders need to hear from us. Find out whether your members of Congress support the Healthy Families Act – and let them know where you stand on guaranteed paid sick days.

On International Women’s Day, and everyday, stand with women all over the country who know that if we change the workplace, we change the world!

About the Author: Linda Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Women, which helps strengthen women’s ability to achieve economic justice. 9to5 has staffed offices in Wisconsin, Colorado, California and Georgia and activists in cities across the country.

For more information on 9to5’s paid sick days campaigns, visit www.9to5.org.

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