Parenting and Working Archives

FMLA – “Parent” Definition is Flexible – “Parents” include People Who Cared for You

Published on October 25th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.
She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”

– Ellen DeGeneres

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Just recently, in the course of representing a client, I carefully reviewed the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) law and its regulations. When I did, I learned something that I did not know, but wish I had known: Under the federal FMLA regulations, the definition of “parent” includes any person who acted in the place of your parent when you were a minor, even if they were not related to you in any way.

When I learned this startling fact, I was able to assist my client in establishing that his employer had clearly violated the FMLA law when it refused him a FMLA leave of absence to assist his ailing uncle who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. On the basis of this “discovery,” my client was able to “be there” for the uncle who “was there” for him after his own parents had been taken from him as the result of a fatal car wreck when he was just a teenager.

I hope this “discovery” is helpful to you, or someone you know, if and when you need to be an “angel” to someone who once was an “angel” for you.

LESSON TO LEARN: The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid leave to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent, with a serious health condition. It is a great law, because it permits employees up to 12 weeks off to care for family members, and at the same time guarantees their jobs when they return (with just a few narrow exceptions.)

In enacting the FMLA law, the U.S. Congress wisely recognized the changing nature of the American family. The Congress also recognized changes in the American population, including the growing number of elderly Americans and the growing need of employed persons to provide care both for their children and their parents.

For FMLA purposes, a “parent” is defined broadly, in keeping with the changing nature of the American family. A “parent” under FMLA includes the (i) biological, (ii) adoptive, (iii) step, or (iv) foster parent of an employee. Most interestingly, “parent” under FMLA also includes an individual who acted “in loco parentis” to the employee, when the employee was a minor.

“In loco parentis” is a Latin phrase that means “in the place of a parent.” It refers to the type of relationship in which a person has put themselves in the situation of a parent by voluntarily assuming and discharging the obligations of a parent to a child. It exists when an individual intends to take on the role of a parent. It does NOT require any pre-existing legal, biological or other relation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are in a quandary about needing time off work to care for a person who cared for you when you were a minor, it may be wise to bear in mind these five points:
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Pregnant? When, How, and What to Tell Your Boss

Published on September 7th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“ It’s a great thing about being pregnant –
You don’t need excuses to pee or to eat.”

– Angelina Jolie

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: I must admit – being a man – that I have no direct “personal” experience with pregnancy. However, I do have many female clients, in fact, a majority of my clients are female, and I think I’ve learned more than a thing or two from them on this subject. And, too, I am an employer, and have been told by more than one female employee that she is pregnant. So, I think I see things from “both sides” at least a bit.

I know from many of my clients’ case histories that notifying their employer of a newly confirmed pregnancy, and then “navigating” the process of the many details of “pre-leave,” “leave,” and “post-leave,” were harrowing. Many of them have asked, “Do you have a checklist of some kind that I can use?”

And many of them have shared a sense that, if they don’t do this carefully – very carefully – their jobs and careers could suffer.

LESSON TO LEARN: Pregnancy is a time of transition. There are bodily changes, emotional changes, changes in family dynamics, and others, too. It is not surprising that pregnancy brings about certain workplace changes, as well.

Preparing for the workplace changes cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own. Your colleagues, managers, clients and assistants may all have to make adjustments to accommodate the changes going on in your life, and common sense dictates that you and they cannot make necessary adjustments until you’ve given them notice of your pregnancy.

So, when should you give notice of your pregnancy? How should you do so? What should you say? There are no hard-and-fast rules. That said, here are the guidelines we have put together from the experiences of our clients, from hints and ideas found on the internet, and from my own experience as an employer receiving notice of pregnancy from my own employees and partners.

They are set forth here, so that you can consider inserting them into your notice of pregnancy, and also as checklist of items to attend to. You have enough on your mind, already.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: We have assembled the suggestions we received from our clients and others about when, how and what to do when giving notice of your pregnancy. You can also use these suggestions as a kind of checklist for your Maternity Leave planning.

One important thing to bear in mind: “No one size fits all.” By that I mean that each of us has different views, sensibilities, circumstances and concerns. Perhaps in no context is that more relevant than it is in matters of pregnancy and maternity. So, pick and choose which, if any, of the following suggestions may apply to you, and which may not, and insert those that do make sense into your notice of pregnancy:
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“While on Maternity Leave, can I attend a trade conference?”

Published on June 21st, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

Question: My baby was born a month ago, and everything is going well. I am scheduled to return to work in 30 days.

In two weeks, there is an annual trade conference that I have attended in past years that I would like to attend again this year, both to represent my employer and to network for myself. It would be a two-day trip. My pediatrician thinks it would be good for the baby, because I will be going back to work, and this may be a good “trial run” for her. Am I permitted to do that?

Brewster, New York

Answer: Dear Carleen: First, congratulations on your new “little one.” Everyone who knows me knows that I believe kids are the best part of life . . . “usually.” Your question really made me think, and also required that I do some legal research. This is what I have concluded:
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“Good Guidance for New Graduates”

Published on May 21st, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Four Very Wise Thoughts

“It’s hot. Good luck. Good bye.”

– Graduation Speech by School Board President
at outdoor graduation on extremely hot day

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: It seems that every year about this time I hear or read an especially interesting speech or written piece giving advice to new graduates. The comments below appeared in The New York Times last week while I was in Madison, Wisconsin celebrating my son Sam’s college graduation.  

That said, Here it is, and I hope you will share it with those who you know who may be graduating this year, or who have graduated in recent years. I think it is both timeless and priceless.                            

“Beware the City Dolls”

 By Arthur C. Brooks 

Commencement season is upon us again. In a tenuous economic recovery, many of the 1.6 million graduates at American colleges and universities will be listening intently for a bit of practical wisdom from their commencement speakers.

My own graduation was devoid of this rite. I dropped out of college at 19 and spent my 20s as a traveling musician. I finally finished my degree by correspondence just before my 30th birthday. On graduation day, instead of marching across a stage, I marched out to the mailbox to pick up my diploma. My commencement address was a reminder, muttered to myself, to take my car in for inspection.

In the years that followed, after a great deal of traditional graduate school, I became a university professor. Between delivering a few commencement addresses and listening to many more, here is what I believe graduates need to hear today. 

  1. Earn everything. 

It’s true that graduates today face a rough economy. Americans in their early 20s have to contend with a 10.6 percent unemployment rate – that’s twice the rate among people 25 and up. If still searching for a job, you might envy your classmates whose wealthy or well-connected parents can give them a comfortable life. 

That’s a mistake. The best research shows that unearned resources can be toxic for well-being. One well-known study from Northwestern University tracked lottery winners. They found that while winners described hitting the jackpot as a positive event, they were not actually any happier than a control group of non-winners. Furthermore, the windfall came at a cost: The lottery winners derived significantly less happiness from everyday activities than did ordinary men and women. 

What was their problem? It wasn’t the money per se. Researchers agree that wealth buys less and less happiness beyond middle-class levels, but nobody finds that more money reduces well-being. The size of the fortune is not the key variable; rather, it is whether it is earned. Joseph Schumpeter, the intellectual godfather of modern entrepreneurship, called money a “secondary consideration” and merely “an index of success.” And work I have done using data from Ohio State University shows that people who do not feel responsible for their own successes spend 25 percent more time feeling sad than those who feel they are responsible, even controlling for income. 

  1. Don’t be a “city doll.” 

In his magnificent 1841 essay “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson scorned elite college graduates – he called them “city dolls” – who wallowed in self-pity if they didn’t immediately land the prestigious job to which they felt entitled. Emerson contrasted them with the “sturdy lads” who hailed from remote civilizations – such as New Hampshire. 

As Emerson wrote, “A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls.” 

Failures, false starts and midcourse corrections are part and parcel of a life well lived. Early setbacks may even prove to be a lucrative investment: A growing business literature shows that failures offer invaluable chances to learn and improve. Steven Rogers of Harvard University has written that the average entrepreneur fails almost four times before succeeding. 

The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that “difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” Don’t meet obstacles with victimhood and self-pity. Welcome them, especially early in life, as opportunities to grow in resilience and virtue. 

  1. Fight for people who have less than you. 

In John Bunyan’s classic, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” the character Old Honest poses this riddle to the innkeeper Gaius:

                        A man there was, though some did not recount him mad
                        The more he cast away, the more he had. 

Gaius interprets the verse as follows: 

                         He who bestows his goods upon the poor
                         Shall have as much again, and ten times more. 

This insight is more than wishful thinking. There is abundant evidence that helping those in need is a powerful secret to happiness, health, and even material prosperity. More important, it is the right thing to do. 

In the case of charitable giving, taking this advice is straightforward: Get out your checkbook (even if you can write only a little check). In many other areas, such as one’s work, it is less clear. In my work today, I promote the free enterprise system, because I believe it has created more opportunity for the poor than any other system in history. 

Examine your conscience each night by asking not what others say about your work, but rather by asking yourself whether you believe your work today benefited those with less than you. Make sure your honest answer is yes. 

  1. Think for yourself. 

For many graduates, life after college feels like the first time your destiny has been entirely in your own hands. Unfortunately, other people will immediately start trying to force you into a new script. Some will measure your worth by the money you earn. Others will label you a victim of inequality because you earn less than someone else. 

Don’t let yourself be defined in these materialistic ways. Measure your life’s value as you see fit. You might choose to feed the hungry, manage a firm, coach a team, or front a band. But whatever the life, boldly live it on your own terms. Put aside envy and resentment and pursue happiness. 

A sturdy lad “walks abreast with his days,” to quote Emerson once more. “He does not postpone his life, but lives already.” 

There you have it. Earn everything, fail well, fight for others, and think for yourself. Live already. 

And don’t forget to take your car in for inspection. 

Arthur C. Brooks is a contributing opinion writer to the New York Times and the President of the American Enterprise Institute.

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. Negotiation and navigation of work and career issues requires that you think “out of the box,” and build value and avoid risks at every point in your career. We strive to help you understand what is commonly before you – traps and pitfalls, included – and to avoid the bumps in the road.          

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. Always be vigilant. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about. 

*A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.     

Please Note: This Email Newsletter is not legal advice, but only an effort to provide generalized information about important topics related to employment and the law. Legal advice can only be rendered after formal retention of counsel, and must take into account the facts and circumstances of a particular case. Those in need of legal advice, counsel or representation should retain competent legal counsel licensed to practice law in their locale. 

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

“Breast-Milk Work-Breaks – It’s Now the Law”

Published on April 16th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

A Little Known Federal Right for Nursing Mothers

“There are three reasons for breast-feeding:
the milk is always at the right temperature;
it comes in attractive containers;
and the cat can’t get it.”

– Irena Chalmers

THE LAW: Although unknown to many people, the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act of 2010, known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “ObamaCare,” amended the federal law of workplace rights to require employers to provide to almost all female employees reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time the employee has a need to express milk. 

Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public which may be used by the employee to express milk. 

The law was enacted as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” for short) the federal law that requires overtime pay for employees who work more than 40 hours in a work week. Employees tend to think that anyone who gets a weekly salary is not entitled to overtime pay; that is very much wrong. It has been estimated that 80% to 85% of all employees in the U.S. are entitled to overtime pay, although many of them are not aware of their right to overtime. (To review our newsletter entitled “80% of Americans are Entitled to Overtime Pay; Are You?” that explains who is entitled to overtime pay, and who is not, simply [click here].)  If those estimates are correct, then this new law regarding breast milk work breaks should, in turn, apply to 80%-85% of working women who are breast feeding or plan to breast feed.  

LESSON TO LEARN: Many people believe that breastfeeding is a very natural, positive and beneficial thing for a new mother to provide her newborn. For those moms who work outside the home, however, expressing breast milk for later use is the next best alternative.

In recognition of and in response to the desire of so many working women to provide breast milk to their babies, the U.S. Congress incorporated into the Affordable Care Act a federal legal right to (a) daily breaks to express milk, and (b) suitably clean and private places to do so, other than a bathroom. 

For you and for the women in your life, it may be a good idea to become familiar with the law.  

THIRTEEN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (“FAQ’s”): Read the rest of this blog post »

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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