Family leave expansion bill would include time-off benefits for more part-time workers

(The Center Square) – A bill that would allow more part-time education workers to be included in the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act is headed for the House floor. Critics say it’s another unfunded mandate on schools.

Currently, an employee of a school district, university or community college who has been employed for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours annually is eligible for family and medical leave.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, said that is an unrealistic number for many part-time employees.

“For a school employee, this is an extremely difficult number to obtain since many of our school employees, that is our hourly employees in particular, are only able to work approximately 9 months out of the year,” Howard said.

The bill would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to include employees who have worked at least 12 months and at least 1,000 hours annually.

The Family and Medical Leave Act allows an employee to take a leave of absence from work to recuperate from a serious health condition, care for a family member with a serious health condition, bond with a new child, handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military.

Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. FMLA leave is unpaid, but employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.

Rep. Deanne Mazzochi said she doesn’t understand why, at this point in time, we are expanding benefits for part-time workers.

“This is another unfunded mandate,” Mazzochi said. “What’s going to wind up happening? The people who maybe were counting on having those 1,200 hours and going to get cut to below a 1,000 hours.”

Rep. Dan Ugaste said this will be a burden on employers who have to pay others to cover for the missing employees.

“They have to pay to either sub in or work overtime or do whatever in order to fill the job that person is no longer able to fill,” said Ugaste.

A fiscal note estimating the overall cost of the legislation was not attached to the bill.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act was enacted in 1993.

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