Work-Life Issues Spotlighted by Michelle Obama’s Appointment of New Policy Director

President Obama’s commitment to work-family issues is a topic I’ve posted about previously.  I’ve also posted about the President’s campaign platform on work-life and work-family issues.  I’ve wondered, however, given the many larger issues on the President’s plate, whether these matters would truly be a focus once he was in office. Michelle Obama has made it clear it is a focus of hers, even while her husband is tending to other matters. She solidified her commitment to the issue by her appointment, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, of fellow attorney and Harvard Law School classmate Jocelyn Frye, general counsel of the National Partnership for Women and Families, as her Policy Director. michelle obama work life balance

Obama’s naming of Frye last Friday suggests she’s preparing to take an activist stance on such policy issues as family leave and flexible scheduling. Frye has been a long-time advocate of expanding family leave and ending pregnancy discrimination.  

The National Partnership for Women and Families drafted and lobbied for the 1993 Family & Medical Leave Act, which entitles many workers to up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for family care and other reasons. Their “proposed agenda for the new administration,” posted on the Partnership’s Web site, includes a much-expanded FMLA, guaranteeing employees of companies with 15 or more workers access to seven paid sick days a year, and also for the federal government to provide incentives for the states to set up paid family-leave insurance plans. The brief also calls for equal access to family leave for part-time workers, income supports to allow working parents in poverty to care for new children at home, and federal policies to give workers more control over their schedules, including the right to refuse mandatory overtime.

Let’s hope that Michelle Obama’s commitment to the cause, and her appointment of Frye, result in some real developments on work-family issues!

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