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FMLA may soon be updated to benefit more Americans

Americans work hard, and for many of us, work is central to our identities. And while most of us are able to balance work and family life, there are times when family must take priority. That's why the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was adopted nearly two decades ago.

Workers in South Florida who have had to take significant time off of work because of a personal or family-member illness, childbirth, adoption or other family issue are likely familiar with the protections offered by the FMLA. It functions to protect our hard-earned employment positions, even as we take time to fulfill important caregiver obligations.

But because of the way that the FMLA is written, employees in some fields have had a difficult time taking advantage of it. Thankfully, the Obama Administration recently announced that two groups will now be better served by the FMLA: Military veterans' families and airline pilots/crews.

In the past, it has been difficult for those in the airline industry to qualify for FMLA leave because of their unique schedules and the ways in which their hours are tallied.

A representative from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union believes the new rule will change things for the better. She says that, "It was an uphill battle for many years. This provides peace of mind and real protection for hundreds of thousands of families."

The new changes will also provide more generous opportunities for leave to military veterans and their families. Certain relatives of veterans will be allowed caregiver leave extending for five years after completion of military service, regardless of which branch a vet served in.

Many feel this will provide a more reasonable and humane solution for vets and their families, especially in light of the health concerns of returning soldiers. Conditions such as traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder may present symptoms which can be both unpredictable and delayed.

The FMLA has been helping the majority of Americans balance work and family/personal obligations for almost 20 years. Thankfully, proposed changes to the FMLA will make sure that more Americans are able to take advantage of the protections it offers.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Barack Obama Seeks More Generous Medical Leave For Military Families, Airline Workers," Dave Jamieson, Jan. 30, 2012

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