Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Study Shows Strong Support for Paid Family & Medical Leave in Washington

A newly-released study shows strong public support for a new comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, and new cost estimates show it’s easy and affordable for workers and employers. In response, state legislators and community leaders are announcing their commitment to pursue paid family and medical leave legislation in the coming legislative session.

The study, funded by a U.S. Department of Labor grant to the State of Washington, shows:

  • Three-in-four Washington voters support a state paid family and medical leave program, with strong support across party identification, gender, age, and income.
  • Strong majorities of voters favor a comprehensive program which shares minimal costs for employees and employers.
  • Analysis shows paid family and medical leave to care for a new child, seriously ill family member, or a worker’s own serious health condition would cost a typical worker $2 or less each week, and that such a program would reduce the use of state assistance by new parents and save the state money.

“I’ve been listening to my constituents all summer and fall – there’s a growing sense of urgency,” said Rep. June Robinson (38th LD – Everett). “Our families are paying too high a price now. It’s time to move forward with paid family and medical leave. I’ll continue conversations with my colleagues and stakeholders over the next few weeks and have a bill ready the first week of session.”

“We had bipartisan support on paid family leave in the Senate a decade ago,” said Sen. Karen Keiser (33rd LD – Des Moines). “Since then, we’ve learned even more about how important those first months of a child’s life are to her whole future, and have been searching for smart ways to deal with caring for our aging population. Folks on both sides of the aisle care about these issues.”

With such strong support from state voters, the Washington Work and Family Coalition is planning to push for a new paid family and medical leave policy in Olympia this session.

“We’ve seen from experience in other states that these programs work to improve maternal and infant health, boost gender wage equity, and support thriving small businesses,” said Marilyn Watkins, policy director for the Economic Opportunity Institute and spokesperson for the Washington Work and Family Coalition. “We’ve also learned from the gaps in other state programs. Our coalition is energized, and we’ll have people from across the state showing up in Olympia demanding action.”

“Paid family leave is a win-win policy. That’s why MomsRising’s 40,000 Washington members strongly support advancing state legislation in 2017,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO/co-founder of MomsRising.org and a member of the coalition. “Paid family and medical leave allows employees to take time off from work to care for a newborn baby or sick family member without having to forgo much-needed pay and it also helps businesses – especially those on Main Street – because they see more productive and loyal employees and save money on recruitment and training. That’s why we’re rolling up our sleeves to keep the momentum going forward because this policy boosts families, businesses, and the economy while also saving lives.”

The study also included interviews with 30 employers and estimates of potential reductions in TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) usage by new mothers due to paid family leave.

California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have established programs that provide wage replacement for 26 to 52 weeks for the worker’s own serious health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth-related disability, and from 4 to 12 additional weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn or newly placed child or for a seriously ill family member. The programs are typically funded through payroll premiums. A number of other states are considering establishing similar programs.

A summary of the study’s findings is available here.

Full study results are available here.

Testimony by Janet Chung in support of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (SB 6149)

Testimony in support of Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (SB 6149) before the Washington Senate Commerce & Labor Committee by Janet Chung, Legal Voice

Chairman Baumgartner and Members of the Committee:

My name is Janet Chung and I’m Legal & Legislative Counsel with Legal Voice.  I’m pleased to be here to speak in support of SB 6149.  I’m going to focus today on providing some legal context about why this bill is necessary and important to advancing women’s health and gender equity in the workplace.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination are the existing federal and state laws that protect pregnant workers.  But still, as you have heard from others today – too many pregnant women are still forced out on leave before they are ready – or worse, fired because they sought minor accommodations to their workplaces.

Existing laws protecting pregnant workers use an anti-discrimination framework – that is, the laws state that discriminating based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination – but do not say anything specifically about accommodations.  The anti-discrimination proof process under these anti-discrimination laws is not well-suited to meet the needs of workers needing accommodations.

Under existing law, a pregnant worker has to prove unlawful treatment based on her employer’s failure to accommodate her pregnancy.  The U.S. Supreme Court recently clarified in Young v. UPS what this means: a pregnant worker has to show that an employer accommodates a large percentage of non-pregnant workers “similar in their ability to work” while denying accommodations to a large percentage of pregnant workers.  Basically, it requires a pregnant woman to go out and search for some non-pregnant identical twin to prove a case.

This evidentiary framework simply doesn’t work for pregnant workers who need an immediate, and often, minor, accommodation to stay healthy and on the job and prevent complications.  Few women have the time or resources to litigate and prove discrimination.  Many are new to their jobs, lack bargaining power, are unfamiliar with company policies (if there are any) and simply do not have the luxury of time to sort out these questions – especially while their pregnancy time clock is ticking.

By contrast, when workers have ADA-covered disabilities that require accommodation, they don’t have to show how other employees are treated.  Disabled workers are generally entitled to reasonable accommodation unless the requested accommodation imposes an “undue hardship” on the employer.  Pregnant workers deserve the same clarity.

The PWFA also has the benefit of treating pregnancy as its own condition, instead of requiring that it be compared with other disabilities. It’s true that some pregnant workers have disabilities that are covered by the ADA, but the majority of pregnant workers are not disabled.  Rather, they are trying to prevent pregnancy complications.  But under the current law, they would have to prove they’re disabled to get the accommodation they need to stay healthy and on the job.

This bill will provide employers and pregnant workers with a clear, predictable rule:  Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with limitations arising out of pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.

Simple accommodations are all that most women need to keep them healthy AND earning an income when they need it most.

It’s in everyone’s best interest to help keep pregnant women healthy, and also to keep them in the workforce as long as they are healthy.  This bill is good for women, for families, and our economy, and Legal Voice is proud to support this legislation.

Californians add fair pay protections to their list of advantages over other workers

scaleCalifornia women now have a better chance at equal pay. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that both allows employees to freely discuss pay in the workplace and broadens existing pay discrimination laws to cover “substantially similar work.”

Too many employers across the nation hide behind pay secrecy policies and play games with job titles to justify paying women less than men. Now – at least in California – women will have access to information, and employers will have to show job-related differences in qualifications and legitimate business reasons to justify pay differentials.

A similar bill in Washington, the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, passed the House earlier this year with bipartisan support, but died quickly in the Republican-controlled Senate.

According to the latest American Community Survey data, women in Washington state who worked full-time in 2014 made 77% of the typical man’s wages – a loss of more than $12,000 annually for family incomes. White women made 74% of a white man’s pay, Black and Native American women 58%, and Latina and Pacific Island women less than half. Even women with graduate or professional degrees made only 65% of their male counterparts’ salaries.

Median 2014 Earnings for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers in Washington

Source: American Community Survey, 2014

Source: American Community Survey, 2014

In addition to their stronger position on fair pay, California women – and men – have long enjoyed other advantages over most of the nation’s workers. California is one of only three U.S. states to guarantee paid maternity and paternity leave. Not surprisingly, they also have better social, economic and health outcomes. New moms and babies are healthier, dads are more involved with their young children, and fewer new parents are forced onto public assistance than in other states. And women are also more likely to be employed and at higher wages a year following childbirth.

California’s family and disability leave insurance program also provides paid leave to care for an elderly parent or other seriously ill family member, or when a worker is too ill or injured to work for an extended period.

Loss of earnings due to pay discrimination and lack of paid leave means more children grow up in financially insecure households and struggle with school, and women are more likely to face economic hardship in retirement.

California women enjoy higher pay and a smaller gender wage gap than women in Washington. In 2016, our legislature should prioritize a women’s economic agenda that includes equal pay and family and medical leave insurance, along with paid sick and safe days for more routine health needs. It’s good for women, families, local communities, and our whole economy.

What a dad wants, what a dad needs… has changed

dad1968

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

When my brother was born, my dad took the day off work. He was overjoyed about the birth of his first child and couldn’t wait to spend as much time as he could with him. The next morning though, being the tough working class guy that he was, my dad felt an even stronger weight on his shoulders to provide for his new family, so he pulled on his boots and headed back to work.

As he put it, years later: “We had bills to pay. I had to get back to work. If something went wrong, it was my responsibility to pay for it.” That was in 1968, when paternity leave, paid or not, wasn’t a thought in anyone’s mind. Women were expected to take care of new babies, even if they also had paid work outside the home.

Much to my dad’s disbelief (along with many others of his generation), cultural attitudes around childcare and family roles are changing dramatically. More and more young men today hope for, and maybe even expect, time off to care for their new infants and to be able to stay home with their children when they get sick – without fear of losing their jobs.

In a study recently published by the Boston College Center for Work and Family, over 89% of the 1,000+ fathers surveyed said that paid paternity or parental leave is important to them when they consider a new job. The number was even higher – 93 percent – for men in the millennial generation (those born between 1982 and 2002) who, let’s not forget, will replace the Baby Boomer generation in the workforce. The International Labor Organisation has even called this change in priorities for dads and gender norms in families “one of the most significant social developments of the 21st century.”

Advocates for paid family leave are well-versed in the benefits of moms staying home with a newborn – increased breastfeeding for the infant (leading to a stronger immune system as well as increased mental and emotional development), bonding between mother and child, and more recovery time from the challenging and painful act of delivering a baby.

modern dad

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

But what are the benefits of fathers staying home after the birth or adoption of a new baby? Increased gender equity aside, it turns out the news is good for entire families when dads are able to access paid leave. Research has shown that when dads stay home for at least two weeks after the birth of a child, they have more time to bond with their new baby and build confidence in their ability to be a father, moms see improved health and decreased rates of maternal depression, and babies are more likely to receive significant care from dads for years down the line (according to a study published in 2013 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Just like paid maternity leave benefits, paid leave for dads has gained some traction for workers in white-collar positions, with the tech industry leading the way. We’ve heard the stories of companies like Facebook and Instagram providing four months of paid leave to new parents, because they know it makes good financial sense to retain workers rather than having to re-hire and re-train for the same position.

But we all know we can’t rely on wealthy companies to always do what’s best for workers. And what about those of us who will never work at Google? AKA, 99.999999% of America. (Okay, so that is a made-up statistic. But let’s be real here. Most of us will never work at a tech company, even in booming techie cities like Seattle or San Francisco.)

Approximately 70 countries in the world offer paid paternity leave. It comes as no shock to working Americans that the United States currently guarantees neither paid maternity nor paternity leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993 at the federal level only guarantees leave, entirely unpaid, for workers who work for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours with companies who employ a minimum of 50 workers. That’s a lot of stipulations. Insider’s tip: only 12% of workers in the United States currently have access to paid family leave through their employers.

Just like my dad in 1968, many men today are still only able to take a day or two off work (or none at all) when their new child is born – an event that is easily one of the most important in their lives. But a big difference between now and then is that men in the millennial generation aren’t satisfied. Dads today want the option of caring for their newborn and keeping a job. We shouldn’t make them choose. Join EOI as we work in partnership with the Washington Work and Family Coalition to achieve fully funded Family and Medical Leave Insurance in Washington state.

It’s time for paid family leave in Washington state for dads, moms — and of course, for babies!

By Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc, Graduate Policy Intern

Via the Economic Opportunity Institute

Congrats on instituting Paycheck Fairness for women, New Hampshire!

gov hassanIf you’re a woman in New Hampshire, things just got a little easier for you. Calling the Paycheck Fairness Act “the most significant piece of legislation for women in New Hampshire in over a decade,” the Granite State’s Governor Maggie Hassan held a ceremonial signing of the bill on July 22.

What is the Paycheck Fairness Act and how does it help address the wage gap for women? This legislation protects women when (not if) they experience pay discrimination. Currently, due to pay secrecy, many women never find out they are paid less than their male counterparts. Many private firms (one in three, according to one recent national study) admit to actively discouraging or prohibiting employees from discussing their pay with other employees.

To address the wage gap, the Paycheck Fairness Act:

  • Increases transparency in wages by prohibiting employers from retaliating against workers who discuss compensation and
  • Requires employers to justify differences in pay based on factors not related to race or gender

Just how bad is the wage gap? More than fifty years after the passage of the  Equal Pay Act, for every $1.00 earned by the average white male, the average woman earns only 77 cents-and the wage gap is even worse for women of color.  Black women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn 54 cents for every dollar earned by the average white male. Women earn less than their male counterparts across all occupations and sectors-even though women earn more college degrees than men and make up almost half of the workforce. Economists have found that while differences such as education or occupation explain part of the wage gap, up to 40% cannot be explained by differences in occupation, industry, union membership, education or experience.

At least part of this ‘unexplained’ wage gap is related to discrimination. Women are often offered lower compensation than men when they are first hired, even if education and experience levels are similar, and receive smaller and less frequent promotions. Studies have also shown that employers are less likely to hire women with children, regardless of education and experience.

statewide paycheck fairness lawsEven though Paycheck Fairness legislation has repeatedly stalled at the federal level, (most recently in April of this year,) states around the country are standing up for women. Nine states around the country-states like Minnesota, Colorado, and of course, our progressive neighbor to the south, California – all have Paycheck Fairness Acts on the books. New Hampshire is the newest state to join the club.

In Washington, a Paycheck Fairness Act is sorely needed for working women and families-and it’s a crucial piece of a broader agenda for women’s economic security. Read more in EOI’s recent publication on Washington State’s Work and Family Agenda.

As New Hampshire’s Governor Hassan boldly stated as she signed the Paycheck Fairness Act into law, “Ensuring that women and men can earn equal pay for an equal day’s work isn’t just an issue of fairness–it’s essential to our economic future.”

Via the Economic Opportunity Institute.

Strengthening Women’s Economic Security

June 18 forumA community conversation on policies that support working women and stronger, healthier families with Representative Tami Green and local champions for women.

June 18th from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Tacoma Community College
Building 11

Hosted By: AAUW Tacoma, Children’s Alliance, Economic Opportunity Institute, Healthy Tacoma, League of Women Voters of Washington, Legal Voice, Pierce County Labor Council, Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, SEIU 1199NW, Take Back Your Time, Teamsters 117, Washington State Labor Council, Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby and the Washington Work and Family Coalition

Note: There is free parking in the TCC parking lot.