Somewhere around February 19, 2020 (a long time before the coronademic)- I sent a letter to Senator Roy Blunt and Congressman Jason Smith regarding the current FMLA policy. While I don’t have the exact letter, because I had to email them through their website (insert rolling eyes) and they never respond via social media, this is the gist of what I sent.
So I am gonna talk about FMLA, I am probably gonna make some of you mad, and I want to state up front I am NOT complaining about being a caregiver. I am talking about the FAILURE of a law that is meant to protect people - but forgot people.
Last year when Trey’s parent both got sick, I dropped FMLA papers in at my employer, only to be denied as “not a covered family member relationship” - while it really didn’t put a burden on us, I just wanted to be protected in case there was a need.
In June last year when Trey’s Dad came to live with us, I again filled out FMLA papers thinking that because he was in my home, there might be a category, but again denied as “not a covered family member relationship” - completely in shock because he lives in my home, I reached out multiple times to different HR folks to clarify if this was correct. Multiple times I was sent the reply see policy .....and the denial was correct.
I recently sat down to write my department head a letter about how unfair this situation is, but stopped short after researching the federal FMLA policy - to learn that the “in-law” relationship is not covered relationship either. So I stopped writing.
So here is who the FMLA policy covers; spouse, children (biological, adopted, foster), and parents.
Now I know not everyone is caretaking for their in-laws, but I can name several friends of mine that are, some that work in the same office as me, some in the same situation of being the only family within hundreds of miles.
So here is my “opinion” on this FMLA policy (and before I state my opinion, I am 100% supportive of Foster parents) - if the policy covers foster children, why would it not cover and an elderly in-law living in your home? Is that not similar to being a “foster” parent - do you not spend your days doing similar task, for person not directly related to you?
I have come to conclusion that this law and laws like are set up to protect children(which I applaud) but not the elderly - when I talk about these struggles I am often met with “why don’t you put him in a home” - which I reply back, so we want to keep children out of group homes, but put our elderly in one?
I am drafting my first letters to my State Reps and Senators; I may never see a change, but I will stand up for those in need.
The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:
- Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
- to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
- any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
- Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).”
Today nearly thirty days later I received a response from Roy Blunt , United States Senator (yes that’s how it was signed) and this was his response.
“Dear Mrs. Wiginton:
Thank you for contacting me regarding paid leave legislation.
Although laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide for job-protected leave in circumstances such as the birth of a child, adoption, or serious family health concerns, such laws do not mandate pay.
While I agree that employees should have the ability to take reasonable sick leave in the case of family emergencies, I have concerns that broad legislation to mandate paid leave could place an unnecessary mandate on businesses without regard for the particular needs of the individuals involved. In its effort to improve the lives of working Americans, Congress should be careful not to damage businesses or stifle job creation. A one-size-fits-all solution to a diverse range of businesses and individuals is the wrong approach.
I appreciate your thoughts and will keep them in mind as I work towards solutions that benefit both employers and employees.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to continuing our conversation on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/SenatorBlunt) and Twitter ( www.twitter.com/RoyBlunt) about the important issues facing Missouri and the country. I also encourage you to visit my website ( blunt.senate.gov) to learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my e-newsletter.
United States Senator
Now if you READ my letter, I am not asking for pay, I am asking for protection. While my employer has been amazing, there could be day that I need it, or there could be another family just trying to give their aging parents the best care.
Tonight, of course I am not exactly happy with the response, so here is what I wrote back.
Dear Senator Blunt,
I am not asking for paid leave, I am confident that is NOT what I wrote, what I am asking for is protection that I wouldn’t get fired if my 84 year old father-in-law that LIVES with me, became ill and I needed to miss work - I am his main caregiver and we are his only family close by. His other son is currently serving in the United States Military and stationed 16 hours away from us.
You are correct “Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for job-protected leave in circumstances such as the birth of a child, adoption, or serious family health concerns, such laws do not mandate pay“ but they do offer protection for a set period of time, under qualifying relationship. I have researched the FMLA policy extensively.
I could adopt or foster my father-in-law and be protected, but have no protection under the act currently because he is just my ailing father-in-law who spent years serving our communities.
I appreciate your response, but I am confident you either did not understand my email or you just didn’t read it.
Becky Wiginton, Registered Voter
Friends I am sick to death of having to SCREAM at our elected officials to get their attention. I don’t care what party they are, they have FORGOTTEN who they represent. I am not asking for money, I am asking for consideration for those families like mine, who are trying to provide the best end of life care for their parents and in-laws, and still be a working citizen.
Oh and to add, I like that he included his social media links, I believe I will use those to tag his pages in.