Amend the FMLA to cover grief

They say “Third time’s a charm,” and grieving parents across the country are hoping it’s true.

On May 12,  Congress dropped bills to amend the Family Medical Leave Act to add loss of a child to covered conditions. Introduced in the House by Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), both pieces of legislation are referred to as The Parental Bereavement Act/ Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act. My late daughter Erica is the Kluger, who was killed in 2001 in a car accident.

{mosads}While this is not our first rodeo (bills were introduced in the 112th and 113th Congress), it is the first bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives and that’s pretty significant.

Fellow grieving father Kelly Farley and I began The Farly-Kluger Initiative ( in January of 2011 to petition Congress to amend the 1993 FMLA and over 87,000 petitions later, we’re hopeful this will see the light of day. But as Washington novices, we realize it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We’ve pointed out that death doesn’t care if one is rich, poor, White, Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and certainly pays no attention to whether one is Democrat, Republican or Independent. In fact, child loss doesn’t play favorites. But let’s for a moment take compassion out of it and look at the facts. A company trains an employee and invests money and when that employee loses a child, productivity drops, morale lessens and the employee is often fired or eased out and that’s just a waste of money.  American companies have an unwritten pact with American employees and it translates as loyalty, motivation and an employer-employee relationship. It’s about strengthening the fabric of a company, not breaking the weave. It costs employers nothing. 

So what are some of the objections? More government in our business? We believe it was an oversight in 1993. Over 20 years ago, pregnancy was often considered an illness. Times have changed. It’s a fact of life. So is giving birth, adoption, caring for a sick family member or injured service member and YES, so is child loss. Think: Up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for illness or adoption or birth, 3-5 days to bury that child!

It’s not just cruel, it’s bad business.

We applaud Reps. Israel and Gosar on joining together to do the right thing. We also thank Sen. Tester and his co-sponsors for their compassionate and common sense approach. But where are the Republicans on the Senate side. They are out there. We know that. We have spoken with many of them.

So what will it take for Congress to get behind this effort? We hope and pray it won’t be a personal tragedy to get on board but a realization that grief has no half-life and touches every American family. We are a nation that others envy. We are envied because we believe in justice and compassion. And there is no better time than now, to show the world what we are made of.

Kluger is a public relations executive in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is co-author of The Farley-Kluger Initiative to Amend the FMLA.

Tags Jon Tester Paul Gosar

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