Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act – a labor law that was passed in the United States in the 1990s and is effective till this day. The Family and Medical Leave Act is recognized as one of the commonly discussed topics in HR management because it covers the provision of leaves to eligible categories of employees. The purpose of this Act was to help employees achieve a healthier work-life balance by means of taking days off in the necessary amount. However, at first, the FMLA was frequently discussed as a potential threat to the effectiveness of businesses and organizations. In reality, over the past decades, the Act did not seem to produce any visible effects on organizational performance.

The Act Overview

The Family and Medical Leave Act was introduced in 1993 and amended several times throughout its existence (Guerin & England, 2015). The major purpose of the Act was to assist workers in finding a balance between their careers and personal lives. This is an undoubtedly noble purpose. One of the main features of the FMLA is that it helps employees keep their jobs while they are on unpaid leaves. In other words, the Act protects the eligible workers from being fired while taking time off work (Keels, 2006). Discussing the Act, it is important to mention that apart from its success, it faces shortcomings. In particular, as explained by Mory and Pistilli (2001), the FMLA failed to assist working mothers and pregnant women who were one of the major categories of citizens eligible for coverage by the Act. Namely, the workers of these categories were simply unable to take the allowed time off because they were could not afford taking unpaid leaves. Despite this issue, millions of laborers in the United States were able to enjoy the benefits provided by the FMLA.

Impact of the Act

Knowing the nature of the Act, it was possible to theorize that its implementation could potentially lead to an increased number of leaves taken by employees. In turn, this tendency could weaken the performance of organizations. Waldfogel (1999) noted that the effects of this law could, in fact, be viewed as the comparison of experiment and control groups in terms of the employee behavior and response. The researcher found that the rate of leave-taking increased after the Act was passed (Waldfogel, 1999).

Achievements of the Act and Its Perception

One of the main anticipated outcomes of this Act was the establishment of fair and equitable treatment of workers regardless of their personal and family situations. Under the effect of the FMLA, workers who have young children, pregnant women, laborers who take care of their family members are protected from workplace discrimination, especially the discrimination based on sex (Post & Siegel, 2003). In this way, the individuals who are covered by this Act, women, in particular, have an opportunity to take the necessary time off work. The findings of a study conducted by Baum (2003) indicated that the FMLA was used by many people and resulted in a statistically insignificant impact in terms of wages and employment.


The FMLA is a law with a noble purpose of helping establish fair attitudes in the workplace, provide equal employment opportunities to men and women, and help workers achieve a healthy work-life balance. After the law was introduced, leave-taking increased as a tendency but did not produce any significant effect on the wages and employment of the covered groups. Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act protects millions of American citizens from losing their jobs while on unpaid leaves or being discriminated against based on their personal situations.


Baum, C. L. (2003). The effect of state maternity leave legislation and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act on employment and wages. Labor Economics, 10(5), 573-596.

Guerin, L., & England, D. C. (2015). The essential guide to family & medical leave (4th ed.). Berkeley, CA: NOLO.

Keels, L. M. (2006). Family and Medical Leave Act. Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, 7(3), 1043.

Mory, L., & Pistilli, M. (2001). The failure of the Family and Medical Leave Act: Alternative proposals for contemporary American families. Hofstra Labor and Employment Law Journal, 18(2), 689-720.

Post, R. C., & Siegel, R. B. (2003). Legislative constitutionalism and section five power: Policentric interpretation of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Yale Law Journal, 112, 1943-2059.

Waldfogel, J. (1999). The impact of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 18(2), 281-302.

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LawBirdie. "Family and Medical Leave Act." March 23, 2023.