In February 2005, Patti Phillips sat by her daughter’s bedside during the weeks before Stephanie Phillips died of bone cancer. Patti was able to be at her daughter’s side the day she died because of the federal law that allows millions of Americans to take family leave without risking their jobs. “You want to be there with your child…. and you don’t want to worry about your job,” said Phillips, 49, an inventory specialist at Coca-Cola in Atlanta. “The law gives you peace of mind.”
This week will mark 20 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law by the newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton on February 5, 1993, after years of bitter opposition by the Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbies. Clinton said that it was time for employers to make basic commitments to American workers so that during those critical times when we must put our family’s health first,
When we found out we were expecting twins in 2005, my husband was a teacher and I worked for a small non-profit. We were overjoyed but anticipated a tight squeeze in our small, two-bedroom apartment, where we lived with our 9-year-old son. We were lucky to live in California, where we could worry more about where to put twin cribs than how we would financially survive my maternity leave. That’s because, in 2002, California became the first state in the country to pass Paid Family Leave (PFL). This benefit has made a huge difference for thousands of families like mine who could not otherwise afford to take time off to bond with a new baby or care for a seriously ill family member.
Cassandra Engeman, author of a new policy brief, “Ten Years of the California Paid Family Leave Program: Strengthening Commitment to Work, Affirming Commitment to Family,” lauds the passage of Paid Family Leave as the first step toward filling a huge gap in public policy.