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The Government Wants Your Input on the Family and Medical Leave Act

The U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) has published a “request for information from the public” on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  It “invites interested parties having knowledge of, or experience with, the FMLA to submit comments and welcomes any pertinent information that will provide a basis for ascertaining the effectiveness of the current implementing regulations and the Department’s administration of the Act.”

Elizabeth at Half Changed World has written more about the DOL’s request, noting that the DOL “lists a range of topics on which they are particularly soliciting feedback, including the definitions of an eligible employee, a ‘serious health condition’ and a ‘day,’ the interaction between paid leave and unpaid FMLA leave, the medical certification procedures, and the impact of FMLA on productivity, morale, and retention.”

For employees with same-sex partners, the issue may not be so much the “definition of an eligible employee,” but rather the “definition of a family member.” I realize I’m mostly preaching to the choir here at the Blend, but for the benefit of those who have wandered here from afar: Employers are not obligated to give an employee FMLA leave for the birth of her child, if it is her same-sex partner carrying the child. Same goes for adoption if the state does not allow second-parent adoptions and it is the employee’s partner who is adopting. And if the employee’s partner is lying in the hospital dying of cancer? Too bad. Married in Massachusetts or “civil unionized” in Connecticut, Vermont, or New Jersey? That means nothing. FMLA is regulated by the federal government, which does not recognize such relationships. Thankfully, many corporations are choosing to give LGBT employees leave that is equivalent to the federal rights, but many others still don’t.

Let the DOL know what you think about this and any other matters pertaining to FMLA. Keep in mind that the DOL itself can’t rescind the Defense of Marriage Act—but a revision of FMLA may be a way to try and extend LGBT rights through another channel. (Not that we should stop fighting for marriage equality; we just shouldn’t wait for it.) Yes, the ultra-right won’t go for this, either, but maybe enough folks in the middle will agree that we deserve it that we can make some headway. You think I’ve been hitting the eggnog already? I agree that legalizing FMLA leave for same-sex couples is a long shot. In August, however, President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act that extended important financial protections to same-sex couples as well as other Americans, so I don’t think it’s out of the question.

As Elizabeth notes, the DOL document is dense, but what really matters are your personal stories and experiences with FMLA. You can submit comments via e-mail to whdcomments@dol.gov. Fax and postal-mail information is at the DOL link above.

(Thanks to Sandra, who brought this to my attention through the Carnival of Feminists.)

(Crossposted this with slight variation from Mombian.)

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