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AFA-CWA Asks Congress To Clarify FMLA Coverage For Flight Attendants

Date: April 11, 2008

Washington, DC - Flight Attendant Jennifer Hunt, a member of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), today testified before the House Education and Labor Committee on how the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) excludes flight attendants and the devastating effect that has on working families. It is often difficult for flight attendants to qualify for FMLA coverage due to their unusual work schedules and the specific requirements of the law. Ms. Hunt was denied FMLA leave with her airline in 2007 after her husband, who had recently returned from serving 15 months in Iraq, was diagnosed with cancer.

"The denial of FMLA benefits to flight crew is frustrating because despite the fact that we work full time schedules, flight attendants are repeatedly denied a right that every American is afforded under the law," said Hunt. "Congress has the ability to correct this oversight by passing the Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical Leave Act and restore the original intention of FMLA, to help employees remain with their employer while meeting the needs of their families. It is time that the over 90,000 flight attendants in this country have the peace of mind that the Family and Medical Leave Act is intended to provide."

When the Act was signed into law in 1993, the intent was to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave if employees worked 60 percent of a full time schedule in a 12 month period.  The 1,250 hour threshold for qualification was established based on the traditional 40-hour work week. Due to the unique methods in which flight attendant hours of work are calculated, it is virtually impossible to meet these minimum standards. Flight attendants' paid hours are based on blocks of flight time that begin when the plane leaves the gate and end when it arrives at its destination, excluding time spent away from home during layovers. Therefore, it is difficult for a flight attendant to achieve the minimum number of hours required by the law, even though the original Congressional intent was to cover flight attendants and pilots.

Over the past year, AFA-CWA has been urging Congress to pass a technical corrections act that would protect the right of flight attendants to provide care for ailing family members or themselves without risking their jobs.  AFA-CWA members have engaged in persistent lobbying efforts, phone calling and have written tens of thousands of letters to members of Congress to secure access to family and medical leave for all flight attendants. The Airline Flight Crew Family and Medical Leave Act (HR 2744/ S. 2059) has key bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. This week, flight attendants from across the country have been encouraging their lawmakers to support the legislation and have been successful in getting 218 co-sponsors in the House, the majority needed to pass this important bill.

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 55,000 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

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