Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Paid Sick Leave Proposal - President Obama on Right Track

President Obama Seeks Sick Leave, Parental Leave and Child Care Initiatives

There is little doubt that the most common questions I get relate to sick leave.  The inquiry is usually something to the effect of "Can I lose my job from being absent from work for a couple of
days/weeks/months because I am sick (or because someone I love is sick)?"

This question is usually accompanied by a request for information on whether employees have a right to be paid while out of work due to their own illness, or that of someone they love.

In fact, there are few things worse than losing a job because one needs time off due to a medical condition, or to care for a newborn, or a loved one experiencing a serious illness.

Family and Medical Leave - Provides Job Reinstatement Rights but Only Employees of Bigger Companies With at Least One Year of Employment Are Eligible for FMLA Leave

Great, but Limited Law
Congress recognized the above-principle, and that is why it passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993.  However, FMLA only covers employees who have been employed for more than 12 months by a company with at least 50 employees.  If you are not qualified for FMLA Leave, and you need to take time off to care for yourself or someone you love, you can be fired.

It is unfair.  It is morally wrong.

But it is not illegal.

Companies exist to make money.  They need "dependable" employees showing up every day to accomplish that end.

An employee who must miss time from work due to a serious illness is viewed as "unreliable."  Not unreliable from a "poor work ethic" point of view, but from a "bottom line" point of view.

Persona Non Grata
Employees who "choose" to miss work to care for a newborn or a seriously ill family member are also viewed as "unreliable."  It may be that they are viewed in this fashion because they are perceived of "placing family values over work values."  I find that morally repugnant, but, again, it is not illegal.

Still, the human beings carrying out company policies requiring them to terminate sick employees or those caring for sick loved ones are no different than you or I.  I am speculating, but I would guess that the overwhelming majority of those HR and management types would themselves profess to always put family over work.  Yet, the company is not a human being, and the bottom line requires these unseemly terminations.

Only the law can change this dynamic.  And, right now, the only federal law that helps is FMLA.  If you are entitled to FMLA Leave, you are guaranteed your job back if you return within 12 weeks of your initial absence.  This is a wonderful law.

Family Leave Provides Job Restoration Rights, But No Disability or Sick Pay

Disability Insurance - A Luxury Many
Employees of
Small Companies Do Not Have
FMLA is unpaid leave; its primary component is that you get your job back.  Some companies have short- and long-term disability insurance policies. If your employer has such a policy, and many larger employers covered by FMLA do, then you can get disability pay while out on FMLA Leave.

You then get the best of both worlds: the opportunity to get better or help your loved one recover, and some meaningful compensation to keep you afloat in such time of need.

However, many small companies, who are not covered under FMLA, do not have disability coverage, and often provide very limited sick leave pay, and virtually no job security if you need to miss work for a week or more.

Here is John's Video on how FMLA and Disability Insurance work together:

Obama: Paid Sick Leave Should Be Mandatory

Great Idea, Mr. President
President Obama suggests that we expand on the principles of FMLA and make it mandatory for all companies to provide 7 days paid sick leave to all employees.  The President's suggestion would, if made the law of the land, give all employees complete job restoration rights if they are  I love this idea.

President Obama also supports paid maternity leave with job reinstatement rights.  Presently, some states have such laws, but most American workers do not have such rights unless covered under FMLA by a company with disability insurance for its employees.  Every woman who has a child should be permitted at least 2 weeks of paid leave to bond with her child without threat of losing her job, don't you agree?

If you look down the left margin of this page, you will see among my "Most Popular" articles one discussing FMLA, STD benefits and how they work together.

John A. Gallagher, Esquire -
Helping Pennsylvania Employees Since 1991
Philadelphia Are Employment Attorney Representing Employees

John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania. 

John typically represents employees who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.

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