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Family Leave Insurance Act introduced.

April 1, 2009

Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), George Miller (D-Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) recently introduced the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 1723). The legislation will establish a family and medical leave insurance program at the federal and state levels and require employers who are bound by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to join the program or establish voluntary plans. The bill also, for purposes of the fund, reduces the number of employees threshold from 50 down to 20.

The fund's intent is to provide employees with twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave. The fund, established and administered by the Secretary of Labor, would provide benefits for employees taking leave for any of the following reasons:

* Upon the birth or adoption of a child

* To care for a family member with a serious health condition

* Serious health condition

* For any qualifying emergency arising from the fact that a spouse, child, or parent of the employee is on active military duty

* To care for a family member who is a covered service member

Employers with more than 20 employees--a significant expansion from the current FMLA threshold of 50 employees--would be subject to the legislation. Employers with less than 20 employees would have the option of participating in the fund. The Secretary of Labor may either contract with a state to provide the benefits in the case of a pre-existing state program or enter an interagency agreement with the a state's governor to establish and provide benefits directly through a state Family and Medical Insurance Program. In addition, the legislation authorizes any employer, with the Secretary's approval, to establish a voluntary plan that is equivalent or better to opt out of participating in the insurance fund.

The proposal would entitle eligible employees to program benefits that include specified percentages of their daily earnings for 12 workweeks of leave under FMLA during any 12-month period. Under the benefit proposal, most employees would contribute 0.2 percent of their annual earnings, and employers would match employee payments. Benefit amounts would be tiered progressively according to income level. The legislation also prohibits certain employer acts such as interference, discrimination, or retaliation, and carries penalties for violations.

Members of NSBA routinely express strong opposition for mandatory employee leave requirements placed on small business. The Family Leave Insurance Act presents additional burdens on small businesses with more than 20 employees. Congress should be taking steps to spur economic growth for small businesses, not hinder an entrepreneur's ability to create jobs---something an expansion of the FMLA would surely do.
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Publication:The Weekly Advocate e-Newsletter
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:431
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