Father's campaign: More time off for grieving parents

Barry Kluger and his daughter, Erica, who died in a car crash at 18.

Story highlights

  • Barry Kluger has heard from parents who don't get time to grieve
  • Three days of leave "doesn't make any sense," he says
  • A pending bill would extend parental bereavement leave
Barry Kluger was playing a round of golf with a friend on April 6, 2001, when he received news of the kind every parent fears: His 18-year-old daughter, Erica, had been in a car crash.
"What they didn't tell me is she'd been dead an hour," said Kluger of Scottsdale, Arizona. Twenty minutes after receiving the call, Kluger was at the emergency room talking to a grief counselor.
"A few weeks later, I went to thank the firemen who tried to save her," he said. "They told me she never knew what hit her."
Kluger said he cannot begin to imagine the pain that the loved ones of the victims from Friday's Colorado theater mass shooting are experiencing.
"It was so violent and there was no reason, no cause for it," he said. "Those who lost spouses, siblings, boyfriends and girlfriends -- they're going to spend the next few years and most of their lives trying to make sense out of something that makes no sense."
Kluger believes that getting bereavement and trauma experts to victims' families is the best support possible.
When his daughter died, Kluger was running his own company, and could take personal time to grieve. However, extended time off is not a reality for many Americans.
"People have sent me their stories," Kluger said. "One woman lost a child and her boss showed up at the funeral and said, 'I'll see you at work on Monday.'"
In January 2011, Kluger partnered with another grieving father, Kelly Farley, to draft a proposed amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the current act "entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons."
Three months of leave is allowed for the birth of a child or to care for a sick family member, among other things. Yet the death of a loved one is not covered by the act.
Erica Kluger
"You have 12 weeks off to have a child," Kluger said, "but three days off when a child dies.