Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. |


Twenty years after Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law continues to evolve.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants to be part of that evolution. She said Friday that she would help lead the effort to get Congress to pass a paid-leave component as part of her “American Opportunity Agenda.”

Gillibrand said the proposal is designed for a changing American workforce in which women are the primary breadwinner in 40 percent of families with children younger than 18.

“Rebuilding America’s middle class relies on keeping every woman who wants to be in the workplace in the workforce and earning a paycheck,” Gillibrand said during a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.

More often than not, women are the ones who leave the workforce to care for a family member, she said.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with at least 50 workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees who are seriously ill, taking care of a family member with a serious health condition, caring for an infant under a year old or adopting a child.

An estimated 100 million people have used the act to take unpaid leave, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.