• February 11, 2013

    Treatment of workers at HealthBridge nursing homes in Connecticut and gaps in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) show how stacked some labor law can be against workers. Even when workers win a string of victories in court, employers can stall in placing workers back on the job. For example, six-hundred workers who make no more than $32,000 have been out of work since June, despite a court order directing HealthBridge to put them back to work. Meanwhile, 40 percent of American workers aren’t covered by FMLA. And too often employees covered by the law are punished by their employers for attempting to take leave. Law professor Anne Lofaso suggests some simple ways to improve labor laws in her new ACS issue brief, aptly titled “We Are in this Together.

    -- ESA

  • March 21, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Sarah Crawford, Director of Workplace Fairness, National Partnership for Women & Families

    “This grading of Congress’s homework is a task we are ill suited to perform and ill advised to undertake.” 

    -- Justice Scalia’s concurring opinion in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals

    By a narrow majority, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals – has eroded the right of millions of state workers to take job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) when faced with a serious illness, injury, or pregnancy. In these tough economic times of high unemployment, the Supreme Court has dealt another devastating blow to millions of workers – making them vulnerable to losing their jobs if they need time off for medical leave. The Court ruled that states cannot be sued for monetary damages for violating the FMLA’s medical leave provision, leaving state workers with little meaningful recourse if their employers deny the self-care leave guaranteed by the plain language of the FMLA.

    The FMLA set an important family and medical leave standard that guarantees eligible workers – both women and men – up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to recover from a serious illness or medical condition, including pregnancy or childbirth, or to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child or a seriously ill family member.

    Since its enactment 19 years ago, workers have used the FMLA more than 100 million times. The law has helped workers disabled by pregnancy or recovering from childbirth, workers with new babies and dying parents, workers who have had heart attacks and hysterectomies – in short, workers for whom job-protected leave is of critical importance.

    Petitioner Daniel Coleman was one such worker facing a serious illness who sought to exercise his rights to medical leave. He was working for a Maryland court when his doctor ordered bed rest. After requesting medical leave, Coleman was fired the next day. He then filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of the FMLA.

  • February 6, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Judith L. Lichtman one of the nation’s leading -- and most successful -- advocates for equality says she has no intention of ceasing the work she loves anytime soon. And that is tremendous news for a nation where inequalities still loom large.

    In an interview with Kathryn Alfisi for Washington Lawyer, Lichtman (pictured) provides insight into her decades-long career of fighting pervasive racial and gender discrimination, as well as income inequality. She entered law school in the 1960s, which was not at any easy endeavor for women because of deeply held prejudices, and she faced hazing for it.

    Not terribly long after graduation, Lichtman launched what would become a tireless career as a civil rights activist. She started out investigating segregation and other forms of racial discrimination in southern cities.

    “Despite the requirements to integrate public accommodations in Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there remained many places where public accommodations were segregated,” Lichtman said. “We definitely needed to be cautious during the spring and summer of 1966. One could see segregation all around.”

    Later, Lichtman, a member of the ACS Board, would join the Women’s Legal Defense Fund, now the National Partnership for Women & Families, as its executive director. There she oversaw several landmark achievements, including the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) during President Bill Clinton’s first few weeks in office.

    It took, Lichtman recalls, nearly nine years to enact FMLA.

    “We Americans always like to say that we’re a family friendly nation, but for that to be true, people need to be able to take time off for medical needs without fear of losing their jobs,” she said. “We were vilified at that time as really being social engineers, but today we estimate that FMLA has been used more than a 100 million times and is wildly popular.”

  • December 16, 2009
    Workplace laws and norms seriously undercut the ability of mothers and caregivers to handle family demands, thereby depriving the workforce of highly qualified people and harming families, writes Phoebe Taubman in a new report. In "Free Riding on Families: Why the American Workplace Needs to Change and How to Do It," an Issue Brief released today by ACS, Taubman notes an array of obstacles confronting mothers and other caregivers to maintaining successful professional careers and caring for their families.

    Taubman, an Equal Justice Works Fellow with A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, writes:

    For a country whose politicians tout family values, the United States has done little to confront [the] costs and support of the critical work that families provide. Compare our public policies to those of our peers around the world. One hundred and seventy-seven nations guarantee leave with income to women in connection with childbirth. Seventy-four countries ensure paid paternity leave or the right to paid paternal leave for fathers. The United States guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force - putting it in the company of Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sierra Leone, and Swaziland - and no paid paternity or parental leave for fathers.

    Taubman's Issue Briefs calls for advancing up-to-date workplace fairness laws and norms, including supporting paid sick leave and flexible workplace hours. Additionally she notes that more must be done to combat workplace discrimination leveled at women and other workers who struggle to attend to family needs.

    Taubman states:

    Although the existing framework of laws captures a significant portion of cases involving unfair treatment of family caregivers, there are still many cases that fall through the cracks. The statutory cutoffs that limit the number of eligible employees under the FMLA, for example, consequently restrict the reach and protection of the only federal law passed explicitly to address work/family conflict.

    See Taubman's entire Issue Brief here.