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Obama Gives Family Leave to Airline Workers

Good news came early this year for U.S flight attendants and pilots. These workers now have the same rights that most other people already have in the workplace. The Houston Chronicle reports that President Barack Obama recently signed a bill into a law, giving airline crews coverage under the Family Medical Leave Act. The signing of this legislation comes almost 17 years after the Family Medical Leave Act was originally passed.

Now, airline crews may take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks if they need to tend to newborns, recover from an illness, or take care of a sick family member.

Houston employment lawyer Stephen Roppolo called this new law a "no-brainer" in the Houston Chronicle, saying that flight crews deserve the same rights as everybody else.

The reason why most airline workers didn't qualify for the rights of FMLA before the bill's passage was because the rules of FMLA stated that employees had to work 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. The Houston Chronicle reports that most full time workers put in about 2,000 hours a year, but that the average full-time flight crew member only logs about 70 to 80 hours a month, which is too low for the FMLA standards. The reason for the limited number of hours is because full time flight attendants and pilots are only paid for their time in the air; and not when they're on the ground waiting for delayed flights, loading bags and assisting passengers boarding the plane or deplaning.

The new law that includes FMLA coverage can be seen as a huge victory for flight crews around the country, but the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 22 carriers, is still fighting for more rights among airline crews. For more information about the flight attendant labor union, visit their website. For more information about FMLA, please visit our Related Resources links. 

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