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FMLA and Loss of a Child

FMLA is the Family Medical Leave Act. It allows employees with sick family members to take time away from work to care for the loved one without risk of losing their job. Now, a bill is in the works to amend the FMLA to allow parents to take up to 12 weeks away from their job to mourn the loss of a child – something that was not previously part of the law.

The Parental Bereavement Act of 2015, also known as the Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act, would add the phrase “… because of the death of a son or daughter” to the list of FMLA entitlements. The bill has received bi-partisan support in congress.

Supporters of the bill point out that new parents have the option of taking time away from work under the FMLA, or when a child or other family member is experiencing serious health conditions. Grieving parents and others who support the bill argue the loss of a child is the most devastating life event anyone can experience and they believe the bill should offer protection in cases of child loss, just as it does in other circumstances.

Parental Bereavement Act Would Protect Employment for Grieving Parents

Those who support the bill believe it would provide parents who have suffered the loss of a child time to grieve and care for their families, and would also prevent the stress of having to worry about the loss of a job.

Explains Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) who himself faced the loss of his daughter in 2008, “When faced with an unimaginable tragedy like the loss of a child, workers shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job too.” Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) believes the “…issue transcends political lines” and supports the bill.

The Parental Bereavement Act was named for 12 year old Sarah Grace Farley-Kluger who died of leukemia. Sarah’s father Barry Kluger felt obligated to return to work just five days after his daughter’s funeral.

Similar bills have been introduced at least two times before but were unsuccessful. This current version of a parental bereavement law has more support than before, including an online petition asking lawmakers to amend the FMLA.

Bereavement Policies of US Employers

Many companies do grant some type of bereavement leave, but there are no laws mandating time off after a death in the family. Most offer less than a week of time away, which most would agree is minimal when it comes to dealing with the loss of a child.

Some employers are understanding when employees face tragedy, but some are not. Supporters of the bill believe no grieving parent should be forced to choose between their own mental health and their family following the loss of a child, and their job.

At the moment, FMLA protects an employee’s job when away from work but that time is unpaid, unless he or she substitutes paid leave that is part of his or her benefits package. There is talk of a law that would require paid family leave, something that could potentially have the support of the current presidential administration, and many who support the Parental Bereavement Act believe the bill could pave the way to paid family medical leave.

Time away from work is sometimes necessary. If you have questions about your bereavement rights or you would like to discuss another employment issue, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.

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