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Ernst, Cotton, McCaskill and Heitkamp Introduce Bill to Modernize FMLA

Bipartisan Legislation Helps Growing Families, Servicemembers

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced legislation to ensure that married couples who work for the same employer are not restricted in the amount of leave they can take under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a newborn, sick parent or servicemember or for the adoption of a child.

“The FMLA is in need of modernization, especially when it comes to leave opportunities afforded to new parents and families. Our bipartisan legislation—the FAIR Leave Act—is a win for our growing families and will provide equitable leave for working parents regardless of their employer,” said Senator Ernst. 

“The amount of unpaid leave afforded to parents of newborns shouldn’t be limited simply because they both work for the same employer.  This bill corrects that discrepancy in the Family and Medical Leave Act and will treat parents fairly, whether or not they work for the same employer,” said Senator Cotton.

“This commonsense fix will ensure that all Missouri families are granted the leave they deserve in order to take care of their families without fear of losing their job,” McCaskill said. “And it’s especially important this fix will help military families taking care of sick or injured servicemembers.”

“Working families are the backbone of North Dakota’s economy, and family and medical leave gives these families the peace of mind they need to look after newborn babies, take care of aging parents, or recover from an unexpected illness. But under the current law married parents are unfairly punished if they happen to work for the same employer,” said Senator Heitkamp. “I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to help fix this issue and strengthen leave options. This bill would fix a glitch to make sure everyone taking unpaid leave is able to care for their loved ones, recover from labor and delivery, and bond with their kids, which is such an important part of early development in a child’s life.”


The bipartisan Fair Access for Individuals to Receive (FAIR) Leave Act enables eligible spouses working for the same employer to each take up to 12 work weeks (24 total) of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for the following FMLA-qualifying reasons: the birth of a son or daughter; the placement and adoption of a child; or the care of a parent with a serious health condition.

The legislation will also allow eligible spouses to each take 26 weeks to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

The FAIR Leave Act addresses the shortcomings of the FMLA to provide more comprehensive and effective leave for American families.  While the FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, it limits the amount of leave that married couples, working for the same employer, may take for some, but not all, FMLA-qualifying leave reasons. The bipartisan FAIR Leave Act will repeal this provision.