Sunday, December 28, 2008

Family Medical Leave Act

Over the holidays I had a conversation with my sister-in-law about some time off she had to take for a health problem. Her employer had been accommodating so far, but she felt that her boss was going to hold her need for flexibility against her in some way.

I asked her if her time-off was being counted as Family Medical Leave (under the FMLA), and she didn't know what I was talking about. Her employer has more than 50 employees (in a 75 mile radius), and as a result, she is covered by the Act (she also has worked for the same company for more than a year which is also required).

The FMLA is the only federally mandated time-off that is provided to workers. Other than FMLA, an employer is not required to provide employees any time-off such as vacation and sick time. The FMLA does not provide paid leave, rather, the law protects one's job and benefits while he or she is off on a FMLA designated leave. Some employers offer partial pay of an FMLA leave by allowing an employee to use vacation or sick time to receive pay.

The law provides up to 12 weeks in a one year period for the birth or adoption of a child, one's own serious illness, or to take care of a close family member with a serious illness. The law has also been recently extended to provide some leave for employees with a close family member called to active duty in the military.

The leave may be taken all at once, such as after the birth of a child. Or, the leave may be taken intermittently. The intermittent leave is a benefit that can help someone like my sister-in-law who needs flexibility due to an illness. She could take leave increments as necessary, such as when her illness flares and she needs a day off, or when she has a doctor's appointment. If her time-off is approved as FMLA, her employer cannot hold the time off against her.

While not required by law, some employers allow employees to take part of their maternity leave intermittently. For example, a new mom could take eight weeks of leave after the birth of her child, and then take one day off each week for the next five months.

Complete details of your rights under the FMLA are available on the Department of Labor's website at

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Magic of Believing

My son woke up around 5am this morning, convinced that Santa had come to our house. He heard reindeer hoofs on the roof. My daughter also reported hearing bells ringing softy, which she informed me were on the reindeers. I told them I wasn't so sure, I hadn't heard anything. And of course, I was wrong. As they rushed downstairs and viewed the gifts under the tree, they both told me repeatedly, "I told you!" And I think they realy did hear the reindeer.

The magic of believing doesn't just apply to Santa. It is true in all parts of your life. Of course a lot happened behind the scenes to make sure that Santa arrived for the kids. But isn't that always the case? Making anything happen takes some effort. What you want doesn't come just because you believe, but you must believe to make it happen.

Writing a book was something that I always wanted to do. But, for the longest time, I didn't really think I could. I learned a little about how hard it was to get a book published and I just assumed it was impossible. But then I had what I thought was a good idea for a book, and I started to believe. In fact, I convinced myself that I would write a book.

The book did not just magically appear. I spent months researching and writnig a proposal which I sent to countless publishers. And then I had to actually sit down and write it, which involved a lot of hard work. But all along the way, I believed I would write a book.

Believing is what makes your hard work pay off.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Your Career- From Oprah

I caught the end of Oprah on Friday when the topic was taking control of your career. I only watched a few minutes of it, but they were sharing the stories of several women who took a course to help them find their true passion and make some career decisions to follow it.

Interestingly, some of the women made a career change, while others made only an attitude change. The important point that was made is that in order to be happy with your life, you must enjoy your work. Your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with your work spills into all other areas of your life as work is something you spend a significant amount of time doing. For some, work may be considered a necessary evil required to pay the bills. But, if you take the right approach, work can (and should) be a fulfilling component of your life.

I feel this is especially true for parents. Kids know if mom or dad is unhappy at work. And it is confusing to them that you leave them to go do something you don't like. At the very least, family friendly work is work that you enjoy.

Oprah is offering the above mentioned course for free to her viewers (click here). I haven't taken it, so I can't say it is effective. But, I believe any course or tool that helps you identify your passion and build the confidence to move toward it is a a good thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New website for moms returning to work

I recently learned of a new website for moms looking to return to work, or move to a more flexible work schedule. The site,, will go live in January but they are looking for input from moms to customize the site content. You can pre-register for the site and take the survey at
The site's mission is:
To help return-to-the-workforce moms and those seeking flexibility between family and self, find their ideal job, their paradise. This niche social networking site will connect savvy moms on this journey by sharing advice, support and ultimately, solutions.

To preview the site, you can become a fan on (search myworkbutterfly).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Get to Work

A little while back I read a thought provoking book by Linda Hirshman called Get to Work. The book was interesting, and I suspect offensive at times to those who chose to stay at home. But, the book does make some important points about the need to stay in the labor market. In fact, it builds the argument that being 'financially dependent' on a spouse is not a good strategy to provide for your children.

I've seen the struggle recently as a good friend of mine is attempting to return to work while she is facing a rather complicated and unfriendly divorce. Her and her husband both agreed that she should stay home when they had a child, and she assumed that she might return to work one day, but it wasn't a pressing concern.

Now that she is in the midst of divorce and the emotionally and financial challenges associated with it, her employment gap is only causing her more despair and frustration. Returning to work after several years out of the workforce is hard. Doing so while dealing with a divorce and worrying about the impact on your child is nearly impossible.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Legitimate Work-at-Home

There are many ways to find or create a work-at-home job. Many parents are able to successfully negotiate with their current employer to create a telecommuting opportunity in their current job. Other parents create their own work-at-home opportunity through starting a business.

However, more legitimate companies are establishing a work from home workforce. Some companies have found they can save costs related to on-site housing of employees. Further, they are able to build a more diverse and flexible workforce. recently identified some of these opportunities, read the full article here.

They include call center companies such as Alpine Access, Convergys, West at Home, VIP Desk, and LiveOps; sales companies such as Extended Presence; virtual assistants such as Staffcentrix; and IT support such as Internet Girl Friday.

Some of these companies will hire you as an employee, whereas others will hire you as an Independent Contractor. If you are hired as an Independent Contractor, it is important that you understand your responsibilites from a tax perspective. The IRS provides some good resources for those who are self-employed, check them out here.