U.S. reviews unpaid-leave rules

From the Associated Press

The Bush administration is examining regulations that give workers unpaid leave to deal with family or medical emergencies, making some supporters of the rules wary that worker protections might be scaled back.

The Labor Department said Thursday that it would seek comment from the public, employers, workers and other interested parties on the matter. Comments are due to the agency by Feb. 2. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act grants eligible workers as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for such things as caring for a newborn or a sick family member, or because the employee has a serious health condition.

The department is seeking feedback on such issues as eligibility standards for employees, what constitutes a serious health condition and whether steps need to be taken to boost workers' awareness of their rights.

"This is meant to be a very objective review," said Victoria Lipnic, assistant secretary for the department's Employment Standards Administration.

Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which promotes fairness in the workplace, said she did not want to see sweeping changes "that could seriously undermine the protections that people now have."

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