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DC and a handful of US states pave the way for paid leave

| Jun 18, 2019 | Workplace Discrimination |

The United States, as a developed country, comes short in comparison to its peers in providing paid sick leave and family leave. Washington, D.C., a few states and some private companies have gone the extra mile to provide paid sick and family leave to workers. This includes paid leave for new parents, adults who need to take care of a sick family member and workers who need to take care of themselves.

In fact, CNBC names Washington D.C. as one of the best places to live in America to get access to paid family leave. The D.C. law that passed in 2016 and that takes effect in the summer of 2020 allows workers to earn up to 90% of their salaries while on paid leave (with a maximum weekly benefit of $1,000). This benefit applies even when D.C. workers live outside of city limits, but does not apply to federal government employees. California was the first state to pass a bill providing paid leave. Other states with paid leave provisions include New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island; Washington state’s law will take effect in 2020.

The U.S. government is considering providing paid leave on a federal level. The expense was included in the 2019 budget proposal and aims to provide six weeks of paid leave for parents. Funding is expected to come from the unemployment insurance system, which operates at the state level. This would help to resolve the inadequacy of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which does not cover all employees, and only requires unpaid leave. And, even for the families who are covered by FMLA, not many people can afford to give up a paycheck for a week or two, let alone 12 weeks.

If the federal proposal becomes law, it is unclear how it will affect those states that already have paid leave provisions in place. Would the federal government help to fund paid leave in states that have devised their own funding mechanisms? Would the state’s laws take precedence when its provisions are better, such as with the minimum wage? Or, would the federal laws trump what the states have created?

It may be some time before these questions are answered. It may be longer still before the proposal makes it to law and takes effect. Until then, the fact that paid leave even made it into the federal budget proposal for 2019 is a step in the right direction.