Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Senate Approves FMLA Coverage For Flight Attendants

/PRNewswire/ -- More than 16 years after the original Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed, flight attendants and flight crews across the country, are finally about to be granted access to the same coverage that has long benefited working families. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) today applauded the U.S. Senate for approving the Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical Leave Act, S. 1422.

"We are happy to announce to our over 50,000 members that no flight attendant will be left behind when it comes to FMLA coverage anymore," said AFA-CWA International President Patricia Friend. "We have worked alongside Senator Patty Murray on this very important legislation and her leadership has been essential in making this bill a bi-partisan effort to correct and clarify current FMLA language that has repeatedly denied many flight attendants from qualifying for coverage for years."

Currently, flight attendants face many hurdles in order to qualify for FMLA benefits. These hurdles are particular to airline employees since FMLA language has been narrowly interpreted and has failed to take into account "the unique way in which the airline industry counts its workers' hours." The current bill clarifies the original 1993 FMLA law and ensures that flight crews are treated fairly and qualify for benefits. The bill was introduced by a bi-partisan coalition that consisted of Senators Murray (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jim Webb (D-VA), Sue Collins (R-ME), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kit Bond (R-MO). A similar bill was passed by the House on a unanimous voice vote earlier this year.

"We look forward to an expedited process to finalize this very important bill and for President Obama to officially sign it into law this fall. No one can question the benefits FMLA has provided for working women and men, allowing them to take time off from work to care for themselves or family members," added Friend.

The FMLA requires most employers to provide job-protected unpaid leave to employees who have worked 60 percent of a full-time schedule over the course of a year. However, the courts and federal agencies disregarded that original intent and narrowly defined the "full time schedule" as that of a traditional 40 hour work week, thereby excluding flight attendants whose schedules do not fall within the traditional 9-5 work day. The Airline Flight Crew FMLA corrects this misinterpretation of the original legislation and finally extends this vital coverage to flight crews.

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