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Spotlight on Paid Leave

March 10, 2008—On March 5, Washington, D.C., became the second municipality to adopt a mandatory paid-leave policy covering all employers in D.C. (including the D.C. government, but not the federal government).

The DC paid-leave policy covers sick leave and safe leave (leave to deal with issues related to domestic violence, like court hearings). Before passage, the business community worked closely with some D.C. council members to amend the bill to include provisions that require an employee to work for 12 months before becoming eligible, make exempts health care workers and wait staff exempt, and require the city to do an annual assessment of the bill's impact on businesses.

Before it becomes effective, the bill needs to be signed by the mayor (who, although he opposed the bill, has indicated he will sign it), reviewed by the U.S. Congress and go through regulatory rulemaking. The new law will require businesses with 100 employees or more to provide seven paid sick and safe days, five days for firms with 25-99 employees, and three days for firms with 24 or fewer employees.

In other news, on March 6 the House Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing titled “Investing in the Future of the Federal Workforce: Paid Parental Leave Improves Recruitment and Retention.” The hearing examined the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2007 (H.R. 3799), which would provide that all federal employees receive eight weeks of full pay and benefits for leave taken for the birth or adoption of a child.

The federal government currently does not provide its employees with such paid leave, although federal employees do have access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The hearing included three panels with the following witnesses:

Panel I:

  • Mr. Daniel Beard, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Ms. Nancy Kichak, Associate Director for Strategic Human Resources Policy, U. S. Office of Personnel Management

Panel II:

  • Dr. Jane Waldfogel, Professor of Social Work, The Columbia University
  • Ms. Debra Ness, Executive Director, National Partnership for Women & Families
  • Dr. Vicky Lovell, Director of Employment and Work-Life Programs, The Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Panel III:

  • Ms. Colleen Kelley, President, National Treasury Employees Union
  • Ms. Mary Jean Burke, First Executive Vice-President, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
  • Ms. Amy Constantino, Federal Employee
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