By Lecia Johnson, Shareholder, Godfrey & Kahn, SC
In recent years, laws have been clarified and expanded to reflect the evolving family structures of employees. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued an Administrator’s Interpretation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which clarifies that family leave is available not only to biological parents, but other individuals, such as grandparents that serve as caregivers to their grandchildren. In addition, the DOL has clarified that family leave is available for adult children suffering from mental or physical disabilities. Some states have also implemented changes to their laws providing for access to medical benefits to domestic partners.
These recent changes support diversity in the workplace and have generally resulted in positive results for all employees who may benefit from the expansion and clarifications of these laws.
At Godfrey & Kahn, our firm has worked to design policies and practices that allows our employees to benefit from family leave and medical benefits in a manner that accommodates their modern family structures, all while maintaining their presence and positions within our organization. Through our firm’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), we have continued to monitor new and effective ways to allow our employees to benefit from our leave policies. Our firm has gone beyond the FMLA requirements and allows for paid leave for its attorneys even when FMLA does not require such leave to be paid. In addition, we have adopted a “ramp down/ramp up” policy for attorney associates to address billable hour concerns when attorneys take advantage of our family leave policies. Our medical benefits policies are accessible by domestic partner and adult children of our employees. We believe that these policies and practices enhance our firm’s ability to create an appealing work environment to both maintain and attract a diverse group of employees.