Skip to page content
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
Bookmark and Share

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy (OASP)

Evaluating Employee and Employer Experiences with the Family and Medical Leave Act


Given changes in economic conditions and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations since the 2000 employee and employer surveys, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (WHD) needs to collect new information on the use and need of FMLA leave in order to update DOL's understanding of leave-taking behavior and to close current data gaps remaining from the previous surveys. To better understand both employees' and employers' experience with FMLA, WHD is conducting two new surveys to collect information about the need for and the experience with family and medical leave from employees' and employers' perspectives.


This study will help the Department by providing information on current workplace policies and practices related to family and medical leave. An in-depth analysis of private sector FMLA policies allows WHD to determine how those policies affect the work-life balance of workers and the productivity and work flow of employers. The study enables WHD to shape future regulatory options, craft interpretive guidance (such as plain-language fact sheets), develop compliance programs (employer outreach and investigation policies), and establish regulatory priorities based on sound, current data rather than on outdated data or anecdotal information. Finally, the study provides a data set by which WHD can evaluate the effect of a range of FMLA activities—regulatory, educational, investigative, and legal—on employer compliance.


The primary tasks of the evaluation are threefold:

  1. Design and cognitively test survey questions to be used in the new FMLA employer and employee surveys;
  2. Develop a sampling methodology that will generate a nationally representative sample of workers and employers (or as close to nationally representative as possible); and
  3. Conduct the surveys and report the results to the Department.

Existing Evaluation Evidence

Two previous FMLA surveys have been conducted. The first FMLA study was conducted in 1995 by the bipartisan Commission on Family and Medical Leave in which workers and employers were surveyed to learn about family and medical leave policies and their effect on workers and their employers. The final report, titled "A Workable Balance: Report to Congress on Family and Medical Leave Policies," is available online at The second study was conducted in 2000 by Westat at the request of the Department to update the 1995 data by administering employee and employer surveys similar to the 1995 surveys. This second study entitled "Balancing the Needs of Families and Employers: Family and Medical Leave Surveys, 2000 Update" is available on the Department's website at The third source of information came from the Department's Request for Information (RFI) issued on December 1, 2006. The RFI asked the public to comment on their experiences with, and observations of, the Department's administration of the law and the effectiveness of the regulations. The qualitative data obtained provided a detailed anecdotal picture of the workings of the FMLA.

Key Information

The period of performance of this evaluation is 18 months. The overall budget for the evaluation is $1,296,119.00. The evaluation contractor is Abt Associates. For more information on this evaluation please contact Jonathan A. Simonetta at