Lillian Garland wears many hats in Prince William County.
In addition to serving in the Woodbridge Elks Lodge #2355, Garland is involved in several organizations, including Project Mend-A-House.
But engaging with the community isn’t the only way Garland has impacted Americans.
Years before she moved to Virginia, she played a significant role in the formation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
“When President Clinton first came into office, he enacted the Family Medical Leave [Act] — FMLA — so that you could take time from your work to take care of … whomever in your family is sick — or if you’re adopting a child or giving birth to a child — and not having to worry about losing your job,” Garland said.
Garland lost her job of four years while she was working at a bank in California.
After she had been at the company for four years, she became pregnant and went on maternity leave.
Garland was replaced during her time away.
This led her to file a lawsuit that, eventually, made it to the Supreme Court.
Garland wasn’t the only woman who lost her job after becoming pregnant. Many others experienced the same fate.
“They decided that they didn’t want to abort and so they were punished by going on maternity leave and losing their jobs,” Garland said.
During the next five years, Garland’s story gained national attention and was retold in various publications, including the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
“I was flying around, speaking out, speaking out for families of all races, all colors — it didn’t matter,” Garland said. “My plight was for families — not just for women — because I was speaking up for men, as well.”
According to Garland, a bonding period occurs after a child is born or adopted.
“Once that time goes by, it never comes again,” she said.
Years after FMLA was enacted, Garland continues to make history.
She is the first black woman to become Exalted Ruler of an elks lodge in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
As Exalted Ruler, Garland is responsible for leading the organization.
Garland said that she wouldn’t be able to do anything if not for her “amazing support team,” which includes her family and friends, members and officers of Woodbridge Elks Lodge #2355, and local churches.
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