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Split House Panel OKs Bill for Family, Medical Leaves

May 14, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A politically divided House panel approved a family and medical leave bill Wednesday, with some Democrats and Republicans saying they would work toward a compromise aimed at drawing broad support on the House floor.

The bill approved by the House labor-management relations subcommittee would require employers of 15 or more people to offer unpaid, job-protected leaves of up to 18 weeks to employees who have new, newly adopted or seriously ill children. Employees with serious medical problems themselves could take up to 26 weeks.

Subcommittee Chairman William L. Clay (D-Mo.) called the Family and Medical Leave Act "an important step in recognizing the new reality faced by families today." He said the relief it offers is reasonable and effective.

Rejects Substitute

The measure was approved by voice vote, with Democrats voting for and Republicans against, after the subcommittee rejected a substitute proposed by Rep. Marge Roukema (R-N.J.). Among other things, it would have limited family leave to eight weeks and exempted companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Clay and Rep. James M. Jeffords (R-Vt.) said they would work for a compromise acceptable to Democrats and moderate Republicans. The result is likely to be a shorter leave time, exemptions for more companies and exemptions for key employees.

Supporters of the measure, including women's, labor, medical and religious groups, call it a much needed pro-family bill that would put the United States on a par with other industrialized nations having such policies.

Leading the fight against the bill is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposes mandated benefits on philosophical grounds and contends that a mandatory leave policy would create financial and other hardships for businesses trying to be competitive.

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