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Labor Dept. Moves to Educate Americans on Family Leave Law

June 04, 1993|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department opened a campaign Thursday to educate American workers and their employers on how to carry out a new law providing up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family emergencies.

It released 94 pages of regulations, to be published in the Federal Register today, that will implement the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 when it takes effect Aug. 5.

John Fraser, acting assistant secretary for employment standards, said "40 to 50 million people," representing about 40% of the American work force, and 5% of U.S. businesses are covered by the law.

Fraser described the regulations as "user friendly" and organized in a series of questions and answers.

Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich insisted "that we make sure the regulations reflected what really goes on in the real world," Fraser said.

The 12 weeks of unpaid leave would be provided for workers to care for newborn or adopted children within 12 months of the birth or adoption, to cope with serious illness of family members or for employees whose health prevents them from performing their jobs.

To be eligible, they must be employed by companies with at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius. The employees must have worked for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours during the year preceding the start of the leave, or about 25 hours a week.

The regulations also say that under certain conditions and at either the employee's or employer's option, accrued paid leave such as vacations can be substituted for unpaid leave.

At the end of the leave, the law guarantees employees their old jobs or "an equivalent position" at the same work site and the same shift or schedule.

"An equivalent position must have the same pay, benefits and workers conditions," according to the regulations.

The law also requires employers to continue paying health care premiums for those taking leave. But if an employee does not return after the leave period, the employer has the right in most cases to recover the cost of providing medical benefits during the absence.

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