THE UNITED STATES
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 was the first bill signed by newly elected President Bill Clinton. Its adoption marked the end of eight years of congressional debate and two vetoes by his predecessor, George Bush. It allows a worker to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition, or for the worker’s own health condition. The law further guarantees job security in that an employee is entitled to return to the same or comparable job and requires the employer to maintain health benefits as if the employee never took leave. The law applies only to companies with 50 or more employees and to workers who have been employed for at least one year or 1,250 hours. It also allows a company to deny leave to a salaried employee who falls within the highest 10% of the company’s payroll if the worker’s leave would create “substantial and grievous injury” to the business operations. It requires employees to notify their employers prior to taking leave and permits the employer to request medical opinions to justify the employee’s absence. And, in the event a worker elects not to return to work after the leave expires, the employer may require the employee to repay all health care premiums that were paid during his or her absence.