Job Leaves and the Limits of the Family and Medical Leave Act: The Effects of Gender, Race, and Family

This article examines the need for and use of leaves designated by the Family and Medical Leave Act. Using national data, we show that women, parents, those with little income, and African Americans are particularly likely to perceive a need for job leaves. However, it is married-not single-women and Whites who are particularly likely to take such leaves. The authors suggest that this disjunction between need and use is a consequence of the construction of leave policy-that it provides for only short, unpaid leaves for a narrow slice of workers and those politically constructed as “family”-and the unresponsiveness of workplaces. These limits likely reinforce inequality based on gender, race, and family status.