Regardless of your political leanings, Senator Chris Dodd — who announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election this November — may long be remembered by employers as the Senator instrumental in the passage of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Indeed, in 1993, he authored the FMLA bill that was later signed by President Clinton early in his term. Fifteen years later, he pushed for an expansion of that bill to paid leave, which has yet to receive serious consideration in the Senate.
Sure, the FMLA — while laudable in concept — still has some issues. It remains too susceptible to abuse by a few, and remains time-consuming and loaded with paperwork for employers to follow and keep track of.
Yet, despite dire predictions, employers have adapted very well to the law. 90 percent of employers told the Department of Labor that the law had a neutral or positive impact on profits. Through training and education, companies have figured out solutions to some vexing issues and have been able to manage their workforce even with substantial absences. It now is embedded in the fabric of companies and it’s hard to imagine the workplace without that law.
Let’s also not forget the impact it is has had on the millions of men and women who have been able to care for a loved one or themselves in times of difficulty. Indeed, since its passage over 50 million Americans were able to take some sort of leave. And with the amendments passed recently, families of armed servicemembers can also take protected leave if need be.
Again, let the political partisans debate whether Senator Dodd was "good" or "bad"; that characterization minimizes to his contributions to public service. Employers should simply remember him as the Senator who profoundly changed the way we think about the workplace and absences.
You can watch his gracious speech here: