The Looters hate business (and families)

In a move reminiscent of the looters in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, President Obama’s Department of Labor announced a far-reaching change to the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act in a well publicized media event and News Release. The “clarification” of the term “son or daughter” was announced by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor on June 22, 2010. The Administration’s stated purpose is to extend the "right" to take 12 “workweeks” of “job-protected” unpaid leave in order to care for a sick child to “for all families no matter what they look like.”  “The administrator interpretation issued by Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division, clarifies that these rights, which provide work-family balance, extend to the various parenting relationships that exist in today's world. This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, who often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones.”

“No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis added. “The Labor Department’s action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA.” While specifically claiming to give same sex couples and partnerships the same privileges given to traditional married couples, the letter of interpretation goes much further, covering relationships such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. Under this new interpretation, virtually anyone in the child’s life will have the right to claim the child as his or her “son or daughter,” and claim FMLA benefits as well. I wonder what families will “look like” in a few years?

The FMLA is law that applies to religious organizations as well as privately held companies whose owners would object to the government’s definition of “family.” The Obama Administration is actively changing the definitions of family and “son or daughter” for political reasons, claiming to address a need and appealing to emotions of fairness and sympathy for sick children. They are also sidestepping the Federal Defense of Marriage Act in this and other rules, regulations, and “interpretations.”

The Family Leave Medical Act applies to companies with 50 or more employees. Even in these “big” companies, I would imagine that people are hired because the company needs them to do a job, produce some product so the company can make a profit. (For those who don’t know: if companies don’t at least cover their expenses, they cannot survive. If they don’t make a profit, the investors won’t invest more money or time in the company. If the company fails, the employees don’t have a job.)

Filling a position during the absence of an employee for 3 months, one fourth of the year, while guaranteeing that they will still have a job when they return, is costly and disruptive to the business. An adequate “temp” will likely cost as much as or more than the person being replaced and will need to be trained. In many cases, co-workers will be expected to fill the gap.

Each of us has most likely covered, at one time or another, for a co-worker who was out for maternity or paternity leave. In some companies, we might have been able to share our sick leave with someone scheduled for major surgery. However, no matter how quickly we volunteered, no matter how much we personally care about our co-worker in particular or more generally desire the nurturing of our neighbors' sick children and empathize with the stresses of new parents, it can be burdensome to do their job as well as our own, even for short periods of time.

Similar re-definitions were proposed last September for Federal employee benefits by the Federal Office of Personnel Management, and documented in the Federal Register without the same fanfare given this rule. The last page at that link to the Register also contains a notice about a definition change for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, allowing benefits for same sex partners of our Federal employees. It is good that more people will have insurance to pay for their nursing care during their old age or a prolonged illness. What concerns me is that these additional beneficiaries increase the cost of insurance that our government pays, but that the redefinition will be used to challenge State laws on marriage and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. In practical terms, this sort of regulation is one of the many that make it difficult for American companies to compete with their rivals in other countries and more profitable to move factories and services overseas. There are no tax breaks for complying with the new interpretation; only fines for failure to comply. There is no evidence of consideration by the Obama bureaucracy of the cost to the businesses in question or the effects on the productivity of the company. “Temp” jobs will not improve the overall unemployment rate and new stresses on businesses can cause more of them to fail.

In complete arrogance, the Obama Administration is abusing its political power in order to conduct social change and experimentation on a large scale, with no proof that it will be in the best interest of our children, much less our businesses and economy, in the long run.

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