Today in Civil Rights History: The Family and Medical Leave Act Expands Workers Rights

Today is the 16th anniversary of the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).

The FMLA allows certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new baby, a newly adopted or foster child, a seriously ill family member, or for their own serious health condition.  After the leave, employees are entitled to return to the same or en equivalent position with the same salary and benefits.

The law was enacted to help employees balance their work and family lives by allowing them time off to take care of important family concerns without fear of losing their jobs or benefits. Prior to the FMLA, many workers were unable to take time off from work during family or health emergencies for fear of losing their jobs.

Since the law was enacted, over 50 million Americans have taken leave under the FMLA, according to the Department of Labor figures. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for a company with 50 or more employees, and have worked for the company for at least 12 months.