National Partnership for Women & Families

Toward a Family Friendly America: States and Cities Are Adopting Historic Advances This Year, But Progress at the Federal Level is Slow

Working Families Have Celebrated Progress in a Dozen Cities and States Since March
WASHINGTON, D.C. — September 26, 2013 —

The Jersey City Council’s vote last night to approve a measure that would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days is the latest in a series of advances for working families that have swept the nation this year. Family friendly laws have passed in 12 cities and states since March, demonstrating growing momentum for public policies that protect the health and financial stability of workers, their families, businesses and local economies.

“Across the country, workers and local businesses are encouraging lawmakers to establish the workplace standards that families and communities need to grow stronger,” said Judith L. Lichtman, senior advisor at the National Partnership for Women & Families. “As progress at the federal level has been painfully slow, we have seen an increasing number of state and local leaders successfully champion common sense measures that pave the way for the kind of advances America’s working families have long needed and deserved.”

In addition to the paid sick days proposal in Jersey City, New Jersey, which is expected to be signed by the mayor soon:

  • On Tuesday, California expanded the definition of “family” for the purposes of taking family leave through the state’s historic paid family leave program – the nation’s first. Now, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws will have access to caregiving leave.
  • In July, Rhode Island became the third state to guarantee paid family leave. When the law takes effect in 2014, workers who need time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, parent-in-law or domestic partner, or to bond with a new child, will be entitled to four weeks of partially paid leave.
  • Also in July, Hawaii expanded upon federal protections for breastfeeding workers, requiring that all employers with 50 or more employees provide both reasonable break time and a clean, private location other than a bathroom to workers who need to express breast milk.
  • In June, New York City became the fifth city in the nation to establish a paid sick days law, guaranteeing more than one million New Yorkers the right to earn paid time off to recover from common illnesses or care for their families. And just this week, the Council approved a measure to ensure pregnant workers are provided reasonable accommodations to allow them to continue working.
  • Connecticut approved the creation of a task force to study the establishment of a family and medical leave insurance program. Connecticut is the first and only state with a law guaranteeing workers the right to earn paid sick days.
  • Oregon expanded access to unpaid leave through two measures signed into law in June. The first enables survivors or parents of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to take unpaid time off. The second allows eligible workers to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave following the death of a family member.
  • In May, Colorado expanded its state Family and Medical Leave Act to allow workers to take unpaid leave to care for a domestic or civil union partner.
  • Also in May, Maryland established a task force to study temporary disability insurance programs, in addition to establishing a law that requires employers with 15 or more workers to make reasonable accommodations for workers due to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Minnesota expanded upon existing state law to increase the list of family members for whom accrued sick leave may be used. It now includes adult children, spouses, siblings, parents, stepparents and grandparents.
  • Vermont established a law in May that creates a paid family leave study committee. It includes a provision that allows workers the right to request a flexible work arrangement, such as working from home or job-sharing, without retaliation from their employers.
  • And in March, Portland, Oregon, became the fourth city to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days.

“Families are suffering because of our nation’s out-of-date workplace policies,” Lichtman continued. “Women are nearly half the workforce and primary breadwinners and caregivers for their families, yet our public policies fail to provide fundamental support. Too many people today are being forced to choose between job and family. It’s not sustainable for individuals or their families, and it’s hurting our economy.”

The National Partnership tracks family friendly legislation at the state and local levels through a work and family policy database, available at www.NationalPartnership.org/WFDB. Similar proposals exist at the federal level, including: the Healthy Families Act, which would establish a national paid sick days standard; the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would ensure women with pregnancy-related conditions are afforded the same workplace protections as workers with similar limitations; and a soon-to-be-introduced proposal to establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program.

“Progress at the state and local levels makes it abundantly clear that it is time for Congress to recognize that America’s families want and need federal standards,” Lichtman added. “We now have a growing body of evidence that shows that these policies work well for families, businesses and our economy. It is long past time for federal lawmakers to make them a priority. We need the Healthy Families Act, additional protections for pregnant workers, and paid family and medical leave to become law.”

Contact

Sadie Kliner (202) 986-2600 skliner@nationalpartnership.org

The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.

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