Maloney, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Expand Family Leave Protections

Apr 15, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation that would modernize the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for the 21st Century. The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act will guarantee small necessities leave and make important updates to the definition of family to ensure a broader range of caregiving relationships are covered by FMLA’s protections. 


In 2020, 45 percent of family caregivers reported that they experienced at least one financial impact due to their caregiving responsibilities, and 53 percent of caregivers reported having to go in late, leave early, or take time off of work to provide care for a family member. Additionally, 49 percent of family caregivers who left the workforce entirely reported doing so in order to have more time to care for a relative, with 15 percent specifically stating their work did not allow flexible hours.  


“Our family and medical leave policies need to reflect what American families actually look like in 2021 and expand to match the needs of 21st Century families,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “I’m proud to once again join with Sen. Durbin to introduce this bill to do just that.”


“No one should have to choose between caring for a loved one and losing their job,” said Senator Durbin. “As family caregiving needs increase, we have to update our laws so they fit the needs of 21st century families. My bill with Rep. Maloney expands family leave job protections by ensuring all workers have the same rights to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities.”



The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act would:


  • Update the FMLA’s definition of family to include a domestic partner, parent-in-law, aunt, uncle, sibling, adult child, grandparent, grandchild, son- or daughter-in-law, and other significant relationship; and
  • Guarantee that parents and other family caregivers have the ability to take time off to attend a medical appointment or school function, such as a parent-teacher conference, without risk of losing their job.  


Joining Congresswoman Maloney as cosponsors on the House version of the Family Medical Leave Modernization Act are Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Andre Carson (D-IN), Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D-DC), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Dwight Evans (D-PA), and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). 


Along with Senator Durbin, the Family Medical Leave Modernization Act is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).


Family caregiving needs have changed dramatically in recent years and are expected to increase in the coming years. By 2034, adults over the age of 65 are projected to outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history. Already, 7.8 million children live in households led by a grandparent or other relative. As family structures change and caregiving needs increase, so should the laws designed to help these families.


Roughly 53 million family members, partners, or friends provide care to adults in the United States, with 61 percent of family caregivers also working. Many caregivers provide support to both children and an aging family member. Women compose roughly 61 percent of caregivers, and approximately 58 percent of those women are also employed. Women who are family caregivers face significant challenges, including loss of retirement savings and lower potential lifetime earnings. Women caregivers are also 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty.


The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act is endorsed by the following organizations: Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Chicago Foundation for Women, The Arc, Women's Fund of Rhode Island, MomsRising, Movement Advancement Project, Women’s Law Project, Women Employed, A Better Balance, Family Values @ Work, National Council of Jewish Women, Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, Union for Reform Judaism, Paid Leave for All, National Women’s Law Center, the National Partnership for Women & Families, and Sibling Leadership Network.


“The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been used more than 300 million times to help working people care for themselves or a loved one.  The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act improves this critical protection by broadening the definition of family and acknowledging modern workers’ diverse care needs and family relationships.  An inclusive family definition is key to ensuring leave is accessible and equitable, particularly for communities of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants, workers who are paid lower wages, people with disabilities, and their caregivers.  We thank Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Maloney for introducing this bill, which both strengthens the FMLA and helps create a path toward a paid family and medical leave policy that benefits all workers and families,” said Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families.


“The Family Values @ Work network applauds Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Sen. Dick Durbin for recognizing the need to modernize FMLA to include all families. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, families in the United States live in complex care networks that extend across generations, households, and communities, and which include people who are not related by blood or legal ties. To meet the needs of our diverse families, an existing relationship of care should be the only standard by which "family" is defined in FMLA and all federal policies. Our nation thrives when we can all be there for those we love,” said Family Values @ Work Interim Director Sade Moonsammy.


“Every one of us will need to give or receive care in our lives and no one should have to choose between their job and their family, or their job and their health. We applaud Rep. Maloney and Sen. Durbin for their leadership to make family and medical leave more accessible and Inclusive, and we look forward to taking the next step to protect working families and finally passing paid leave in the United States,” said Dawn Huckelbridge, Director, Paid Leave for All.