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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Family and Medical Leave in the U.S.: Incremental Policy and State Legislative Action


In his January 2015 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged Congress to pass legislation giving all workers access to seven paid sick days per year. He referred to it as “the right thing to do” for the 43 million workers without such leave. The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave or paid sick leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 remains the only federal policy providing job-protected leave for workers. However, the leave is unpaid, and its restrictive eligibility requirements mean that an estimated 41 percent of the U.S. workforce does not have access to leave under the law.

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