On the campaign trail, then candidate Barack Obama promised to work aggressively on work-family balance if he was elected president. In doing so, he clearly signaled a movement toward pursuing additional rights for employees to permit them to better balance their workplace duties and their personal and family lives. This “movement,” however, has been stalled by the health care debate, the conflict in Iraq, and the Gulf Oil mess.
Yesterday, the Administration signaled that its commitment to work-family balance is back on track.
Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden held a Middle Class Task Force event on solutions for families balancing both work and caring for family, during which he announced various initiatives to reinforce the Administration’s priorities in this area.
Per the Task Force’s recommendations as to family and medical leave, the Department of Labor will conduct a Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011 to “provide insight into how families use leave.” In addition to collecting data on current family workplace policies and practices, the DOL hopes to gather “more information on parental leave, child care responsibilities, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities.” The DOL also intends to host a series of “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” forums across the country. Over the past year, the DOL has sent mixed signals as to whether there will be major FMLA regulatory change later this year. However, a 2011 FMLA survey may very well forecast substantial regulatory changes next year.
Also announced in yesterday’s Task Force event, the Administration indicated that the EEOC and DOL would coordinate enforcement and data collection activities to better crack down on wage violations and systemic pay discrimination practices. This is a notable development, since it has been apparent that EEOC or DOL very rarely shares data with the other or coordinates strategy on enforcement priorities.