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As FMLA turns 20, some Minnesotans call for expansion

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993, making this year the 20th anniversary of the statute, which provides Minnesota workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new infant or a serious ill relative. While the Act has helped many people over the past 20 years, some observers say that the law excludes too many new parents and family caretakers and needs to be updated.

Critics note that workers must work at least 25 hours a week at one job to qualify for leave. But full-time work can still be hard to find, and many workers in Minnesota have two or even three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Also, anyone who works for a business with fewer than 50 employees is not eligible. The leave is only available to care for certain relatives; people cannot get leave to care for a grandparent or a same-sex partner.

Another issue that workers face is reluctance on the part of some employers to let their workers know that FMLA leave is available to them. One resident of another state said that she told her employers at a national grocery store chain that her medical condition caused her period of severe pain. Instead of offering FMLA time off, her bosses told her to suck it up or she would get in trouble.

To fill in the gaps in the FMLA, many employee rights groups are asking state and local governments to provide paid time off. A couple of states currently provide paid medical leave insurance.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, "FMLA Not Really Working For Many Employees," Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 5, 2013

· Our law firm helps workers who are dealing with medical leave issues. For more information, please visit our Minnesota employment law page.

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