Legislation introduced to clarify FMLA language for flight crews


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) got a closer to being able to utilize the benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – something they should have been able to do when the law was enacted 16 years ago.

AFA-CWA is applauding Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jim Webb (D-VA), Sue Collins (R-ME), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kit Bond (R-MO) for introducing the Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical Leave Act. The legislation would clarify the intent of the original Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and finally provide all flight attendants equal coverage under this statute as was intended.

“AFA-CWA has worked hard to ensure that no flight attendant is left behind when it comes to FMLA coverage,” said AFA-CWA International president Patricia Friend. “We are extremely pleased with Senator Murray’s leadership in making this bill a bi-partisan effort to correct and clarify current FMLA language that has repeatedly denied many flight attendants from qualifying for coverage for years,” said Friend.

Currently, flight attendants face many hurdles in order to qualify for FMLA benefits. These hurdles are particular to airline employees since current FMLA language has been narrowly interpreted and has failed to take into account “the unique way in which the airline industry counts its workers’ hours.” The current bill, S. 1422, will clarify the original 1993 FMLA law and ensure that flight crews are treated fairly and qualify for benefits. A similar bill was passed by the House on a unanimous voice vote earlier this year.

“No one can question the benefits FMLA has provided for working women and men by being able to take time off from work to care for themselves or family members,” said Friend. “This bill will clarify the original intent of the law in order to provide a fair and well-deserved benefit to the hard-working airline crewmembers. I urge the US Senate to pass this important legislation quickly.”

The FMLA requires most employers to provide job-protected unpaid leave to employees who have worked 60 percent of a full-time schedule over the course of a year. However, the courts and federal agencies disregarded that original intent and narrowly defined the “full time schedule” as that of a traditional 40-hour work week, thereby excluding flight attendants since their schedule does not fall within the traditional 9-5 work day. The Airline Flight Crew FMLA will correct this misinterpretation of the original legislation.

For over 60 years, the Association of Flight Attendants has been serving as the voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media, and on Capitol Hill. More than 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines come together to form AFA-CWA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.