The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been the cornerstone of the Department of Labor’s efforts to promote work-life balance since it became law in 1993. The success of the law over the last 30 years is reflected in the stories of the workers who have exercised their right to take job-protected leave to care for themselves and their family members.
We see the success of the FMLA in a new mother taking leave for birth and in the first months of a child’s life. We see it in a worker taking leave to seek mental health. We see it in a worker taking leave to care for a parent battling cancer.
When Kris Garcia, a worker in Colorado, learned his mom was diagnosed with cancer, he used intermittent FMLA leave to take her to radiation appointments and oncology visits. “I eventually used FMLA leave for meetings with the hospice team that helped me with her end-of-life care. Being by her side made a world of difference for both of us,” Garcia said.
The law provides more than just time off for eligible workers. It also provides job-restoration rights, protection against retaliation, and continued access to employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance. Over the past 30 years, we’ve helped 13,000 workers who were denied FMLA leave by their employers, 18,000 workers who were unjustly terminated, and 1,000 workers whose health benefits were not maintained as required by the law.
“The Wage and Hour Division was the answer to my prayer,” he said.
For Trish Gallagher, a worker in West Virginia, making sure she was able to continue her health coverage was critical when she took FMLA leave to care for her husband. “The prescription coverage I got through health insurance was crucial because it covered most medication costs. Without those benefits, it would’ve been impossible to pay for the prescriptions my husband needed,” Gallagher said.
As the Department of Labor commemorates the 30th anniversary of the FMLA, we recognize the challenges working families continue to face. And, while we celebrate three decades of achievements, we also recognize there is much more to do to ensure workers can exercise their rights to job-protected leave in the future.
Unfortunately, too many workers who have the right to job-protected leave don’t take it when they need it because they’re unaware of their rights or they fear being treated differently at work if they request leave. To help address these unmet needs for leave, we’re taking FMLA’s 30th anniversary as an opportunity to strengthen our outreach efforts across the nation, including stakeholder events, interagency collaboration, and new and updated FMLA resources.
As we have been since 1993, the Department of Labor is committed to empowering workers to exercise their FMLA rights to job-protected leave. We encourage workers to call 1-866-487-9243 with any questions or concerns about their rights. We answer calls confidentially and we can communicate in more than 200 languages.
For three decades, this landmark legislation has helped millions of working families balance the demands of the workplace, the needs of their families and their own health. We are proud to enforce it and support America’s workers – and look forward to doing so for many years to come.