Date of Defense




First Advisor

Dr. Jean Kimmel


For many years, women's labor force participation and issues of parental leave have been of great importance not only to families and individuals, but also to policy makers, researchers, and employers alike. The Family and Medical Leave Act was the first federal policy enacted in an effort to accommodate medical leave for employees. The Family and Medical Leave Act allowed both men and women to take extended, unpaid leaves due to personal or family medical and health issues. The FMLA establishes a federal, minimum leave threshold in order for employees to take such an extended leave to include the following situations: to care for a newborn or adopted child, personal recovery from a serious medical condition, care for elderly parents, sick children, or a spouse. With this federal agreement, the FMLA guarantees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for all employees in firms of fifty persons or larger. In addition, upon any employee's return from such a leave, he or she will receive his or her exact position, or a position of equivalent duties, wage, and hierarchy, or which he or she held prior to taking the time off. Economic theory suggests that the Family and Medical Leave Act could significantly impact employment outcome, especially with the increased number of female professionals within today's society. This paper will include an overview on the Family and Medical Leave Act that will further educate readers on requirements for both employers and employees who are looking to take an extended medical leave. Following an overview is a theoretical prediction of the effects of FMLA on employment outcomes as well as labor force participation patterns seen both pre- and post-FMLA. Combinations of studies done over many years after the passage of the FMLA have been researched and the empirical evidence of the effects of the Family and Medical Leave Act on leave coverage for women are discussed. Finally, a brief description of the family wage gap, also known as the motherhood wage gap, will include research from both the United States and Sweden.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access