WASHINGTON — The Labor Department, which has received more than 6,300 complaints about Family and Medical Leave Act violations, is using the telephone to make the 3 1/2-year-old law more understandable.
The department has announced a toll-free number--(800) 959-FMLA--that callers can use to get a brief explanation of the law and to learn how to get more detailed information through the mail.
"There are few things more challenging to working people than balancing their job and family," said Maria Echaveste, administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division. "This toll-free number will provide a valuable service for workers who need information when caught between work and a family's well-being."
The act was the first bill President Clinton signed into law. It became effective Aug. 5, 1993, and covers an estimated 67 million workers.
The law provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period and job protection and continued health-care coverage to workers under certain conditions.
These include caring for newborn or adopted children within 12 months of birth or adoption, coping with serious illness of family members or inability to perform one's job because of serious health problems.
The Labor Department said that as of last September 30, it had resolved 90% of the 6,346 complaints against employers for alleged failure to comply with the law.
It found that 58% of the complaints involved apparent violations, more than half of which included employer refusal to reinstate an employee to the same or equivalent position held before taking leave.
Only 18% of the violations involved employers refusing to grant leave when required.
The remaining 42% of the complaints were situations that were not covered by or did not violate the law.
The department said it had been involved in only 16 legal actions, including two that were settled without litigation. Two other cases were settled in court, one was dismissed and two are pending.