This dissertation explores the discursive construction of work and family identities in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulatory rulemaking process. It uses dramatism and public sphere theory along with the critical legal rhetoric perspective to analyze official FMLA legal texts as well as over 4,600 public comments submitted in response to the United States Department of Labor's 2008 notice of proposed rulemaking that ultimately amended the existing FMLA administrative regulations. The analysis in this dissertation concludes that when official and vernacular discourses intersect in a rulemaking process facilitated by the state, the facilitated public that emerges in that discourse is bounded by official discourses and appropriated language. But individuals in the process are able to convey and contest a range of work and family identities that include characteristics of public, private, abuse, accountability, sacrifice, and struggle. It further demonstrates that different circumferences for crafting work and family identities exist in the regulatory rulemaking process, including national, international, and time-bounded circumferences. Because the law is a discourse that has far-reaching rhetorical implications and the intersect between vernacular discourses and legal discourses is an underexplored area in both communication and legal studies, this dissertation offers a contribution to the ongoing work of scholars thinking about work and family identities, the material consequences of the intersect of work and family, and the rhetorical implications of legal discourse.
- Work and family identities in regulatory rulemaking: a rhetorical analysis of the Family and Medical Leave Act regulatory rulemaking process
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Statement of Responsibility
by Kirsten Davis