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Clinton signs Family and Medical Leave Act.

Signing the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 last Friday, President Bill Clinton broke through the gridlock which had come to characterize the relationship between former President Bush and the 102nd Congress.

The 103rd Congress voted overwhelmingly last week to approve legislation requiring employers, including municipalities, to provide unpaid family and medical leave to employees, and rushed the measure to President Clinton's desk late Thursday night.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (HR 1) will require all employers with more than 50 employees to provide a total of 12 work-weeks of unpaid leave to eligible workers for the birth or adoption of a child, the serious illness of a child, spouse or parent, and the serious illness of the employee.

Cities and towns will be permitted to grant intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule upon the mutual agreement of both the employer and employee.

To be eligible, an employee must be employed for at least 12 months by the municipality from whom the leave is sought and work at least 1,250 hours--25 hours per week for that municipality during the previous 12 month period. To determine whether an employee satisfies the hours of service requirement, the legal standard followed is section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 207).

Employees would be required to provide documentation by a health care provider of a medical condition precipitating the leave, and upon request, provide two additional opinions paid for by the municipality. Subsequent recertification may be requested by the municipality on a reasonable basis.

A municipal employee is entitled to return to the same or similar position held prior to the leave period with equivalent employment benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment. He or she is not, however, entitled to the accrual of any seniority or employment benefits during any period of leave or any right, benefit or position to which the employee would not have been entitled had the employee not taken leave.

Municipal employers have the option to require the employee to use any paid leave before availing themselves of the federally required leave. The bill does not count other leave against the required period of federally required leave. Employers providing less that 12 weeks of paid leave may provide the remaining weeks without compensation.

Employees who are also spouses are only eligible for a total of 12 workweeks of leave in any 12 month period.

Municipal employers are required to continue group health benefits during the leave period as before leave begins. However, should the employee fail to return to work following leave, the city may recover the premium paid during the employee's leave period.

Among the other topics covered by law is establishment of a two year 'Commission on Leave" that would conduct a study of existing and proposed policies relating to leave, potential costs, benefits and impact on productivity of such policies on employers. The bill also contains provisions that cover leave for Civil Service Employees and for certain House and Senate employees.

A number of amendments were rejected by the House. Among them were two proposed by Rep. Bill Goodling (R-Penn.), ranking republican on the Education and Labor Committee. One would have permitted employers to offer workers "cafeteria" plans that permit family. leave benefits to be considered as having met the requirements. The measure failed 187-244.

The second sought to eliminate provisions which permit employers to exempt the top paid 10 percent of the work force from the leave program and instead permit the employer to exempt an employee whose absence would cause substantial and grievous economic injury to the operation of the employer or substantial endangerment to the health and safety of the other employees or the public. The amendment failed 185-238.

The bill will be effective in six months.
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Author:Quist, Janet
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 8, 1993
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