The report cards are in and over 60 percent of states in the U.S. received a "D" or "F" in their efforts to help new parents with family leave laws, paid leave, job protected leave, and other family-friendly workplace laws. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families ("National Partnership") in their May 2012 report, Expecting Better, much of the nation has failed to help new and expectant parents in their quest to balance work and family.
The annual report card issued by the National Partnership graphically demonstrates how just two states, California and Connecticut, earned the grade of "A-", while 18 states, including Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, and South Dakota received a grade of "F" for failing to provide a single benefit or program to help support families before and after the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. See the report's full listing of states for details.
Federal Laws are Lacking Too
With only three national laws addressing pregnancy discrimination, family and medical leave, and nursing mothers’ rights at work, the National Partnership points out the United States lacks a national policy that provides paid family and medical leave and other support to new parents. Gaps in the nation’s chief work and family law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), leave millions of working parents without even unpaid job-protected leave when a new child arrives, says the organization.
As a result, the National Partnership says, the United States fails to provide adequate supports and protections for parents and children. The absence of paid leave protections for new parents is striking, says the organization, in contrast to the 178 nations that guarantee paid leave for new mothers and the 54 nations that guarantee paid leave for new fathers. The United States guarantees neither. As a result, many employees rely on employer’s policies to be more generous than state or federal law requires.
Family Leave and Employers: How to Be An "A" Student
So, how can an employer be an "A" student when it comes to providing family-friendly policies? According to the National partnership, the following practices and policies go a long way in upping an employer’s "grade":
- Offer paid leave to new parents
- Provide paid sick time to use for prenatal, post-natal and children’s medical appointments.
- Expand access to unpaid, job-protected leave so that people who are ineligible for federal FMLA leave can care for a new child or for a spouse or partner with a pregnancy-related disability, or take a longer leave than federal law allows.
- Provide all nursing mothers the right to express breast milk at work.
- Increase worker access to paid sick leave and paid family leave (i.e., more covered conditions, wider scope of individuals covered, etc.)
At the state level, the National Partnership noted that the better “students" offered more support to working parents, expanding access to leave and providing other workplace supports to new parents. Those states, said the organization "provide models worth replicating in other states and at the national level."
More Leave of Absence (FMLA) Resources
Susan Schoenfeld, J.D., is a Senior Legal Editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications. Ms. Schoenfeld has practiced in the area of employment litigation and counseling, covering topics such as disability discrimination, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, and general employment discrimination. She has litigated numerous cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals, state court, and at the U.S. Department of Labor. In addition to litigating employment cases in state and federal court, she provided training and counseling to corporate clients regarding employment-related issues. Prior to entering private practice, Ms. Schoenfeld was an attorney with the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., where she advised federal agencies, drafted regulations, conducted inspector training courses, and litigated cases for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Directorate of Civil Rights, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Ms. Schoenfeld received her undergraduate degree, cum laude, with honors, from Union College, and her law degree from the National Law Center at George Washington University.
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