FMLA: The WaPo Misses it By a Mile

By May 14, 2006General

There’s an op-ed in the WaPo today by Ruth Marcus, a bit of hand-wringing about why she gets all kinds of family leave when working stiffs don’t. Hard to know where to start on this one.

The subject of her piece is a study from the Center for WorkLife at UC Hastings with the grim title, “One Sick Child Away from Being Fired.” You can kinda tell form the title where this one is headed. The study apparently looked at 100 union arbitrations for its litany of awfulisms visited upon working parents. A few things occurred to us: How many arbitrations were examined to come up with these 100 whoppers and what was the outcome of these arbitrations? If in fact these were egregious disciplinary actions, were they upheld by the arbitrators?

Says Marcus, “You read these accounts [e.g., people being fired for being a few minutes late due to a child’s asthma attack] and you think: These stories can’t possible be true. If true, they can’t possibly be typical.” Our sentiments exactly. From where we sit, we can tell you they are not typical For every one of these allegations of alleged bad behavior are dozens of stories of employers going the extra mile to accommodate valued employees.

Says Marcus, “Over half of working-class employees are not permitted to take time off to care for sick children.” That’s not exactly true. In fact, it’s not true at all. They might not be permitted to take paid time off but the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows up to 12 weeks of leave in any 12-month period.

As for solutions, Marcus says that maybe the FMLA should be expanded to allow employees to take unpaid leave “to.. .care for a sick child ore help and elderly parent.” Too late — it already does allow for precisely this kind of leave.

Finally, Marcus laments “employers’ lag time in adjusting to the reality of a new, two-earner workforce.” Au contraire. Manufacturers have been on the leading edge of doing precisely that. We know because we talk to them every day.

We would be remiss, too, if we didn’t mention our efforts to pass legislation that would allow flextime and comp time (in lieu of overtime) in the workplace. Those were both fiercely opposed by organized labor, the same folks now taking these cases to arbitration.

[UPDATE]: There’s a good post on this same article over on Ed Morrissey’s Captain’s Quarter’s blog.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Dave Ryan says:

    I read this story with great interest as I deal with these issues every day. The Captain’s Post is dead on, regarding this. This study is derived from union arbitrations. As he points out, in that environment employers can not deviate or they run the risk of having unenforceable rules. And I might add only the worst of the worst end up in arbitration, these aren’t folk who missed a day or two; probably more likely a month or two.