Patchwork of State Laws for New, Expecting Parents in Labor Force, Study Says


The US has a patchwork of state regulations and laws to help new and expecting parents balance home life and the workplace. The details are in “Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help Expecting and New Parents,” an 81-page study by the National Partnership for Women & Families, edition four, released Aug. 3.

The study measures how states and the District of Columbia, have (not) exceeded the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of workplace protections for new parents that took effect Aug. 5, 1993. “No state is doing enough,” according to Sarah Fleisch-Fink, NPWF senior counsel and workplace policy director.

California alone received an “A” grade, followed by D.C. and New York earning “A-minus” grades. California led the nation in four main areas: paid family medical leave, paid sick days, pregnancy accommodations and expecting and nursing mothers’ workplace protections surpassing what the FMLA requires, according to Fleisch-Fink.

According to the NPWF study, 11 states received grades of “B,” while 10 states got “C” grades and 15 states earned “D” grades.

The 12 states (except Missouri) receiving an “F” grade for passing zero laws to improve the FMLA for new and expecting parents are right-to-work states. RTW laws weaken collective bargaining and union organizing. There are 26 RTW states in the US.

Progressive policies at the city level in the Golden State have in turn spurred California’s family-friendly laws that improve on the FMLA, according to Sebrina Owens-Wilson, transit equity campaign director with the Partnership for Working Families.

In a related trend, economic justice work in the Golden State is spurring the political discussion nationally. The 2016 presidential campaign is a case in point. Such a dynamic is giving wind to the sails of proposals to boost the federal minimum-wage above its current $7.25 an hour, where it has been since July 24, 2009.

Enacting a series of policies to stabilize economic security for the most vulnerable working parents, who are low-income and people of color is key to progressive politics that expand the FMLA, Owens-Wilson said. Economic justice advances racial equity.

California is a rock-solid blue state. It is also a minority-majority state, with an economy that is the sixth-largest on the planet.

In California, Democratic state lawmakers have been trying to improve domestic laws and policy for parents who work outside the home. One area is expanding the paid family leave law to make it job-protected.

Senate Bill 1166, the New Parent Leave Act that Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced Feb. 18, would have expanded the Golden State’s current protected parental leave law to employers with payrolls of five to 50 workers, mandating that employees receive 12 weeks of parental leave.

SB 1166 failed passage in the Committee on Labor and Employment June 22, but returned as Senate Bill 654 in the legislative session that ended Aug. 31.

On the Assembly Floor, Democratic lawmakers amended Senate Bill 1166 as SB 654, the New Parent Leave Act, would apply to companies with 10 or more workers. They would receive a guarantee of 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave after the arrival of a newborn or adopted child.

Paying attention to new and growing industries, such as the app-based service-sectors that hire on-demand workers, is vital, according to Owens-Wilson. “We don’t want to allow on-demand employers to undercut the progress made for working families,” she said.

The on-demand economy fractures stable employer-employee relationships, Owens-Wilson said. That precarious outcome under the guise of labor flexibility is one to avoid or minimize.

Making labor flexible prioritizes the interests of employers over workers. That equation upends living conditions for workers and their families, according to her.

To wit, workers for on-demand firms labor as union-free independent contractors, and not company employees. That non-employee status makes it hard for workers, from expecting and new parents to childless adults, to access vital benefits.

The National Partnership and hundreds of groups are pushing Congress to pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. It would, according to an NPWF statement, “establish a paid family and medical leave insurance program; the Healthy Families Act, which would set a paid sick days standard; and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would help combat pregnancy discrimination.”

The NPWF study is available at (

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2016

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