February 23, 2011

VI. Recommendations

To the Federal Government

To the US Department of Labor

  • Ensure that the 2011 DOL-sponsored national dialog on workplace flexibility addresses paid family leave, part-time parity, and flexible work conditions for parents returning from maternity or paternity leave. Ensure that marginalized and disadvantaged workers actively participate in the dialog forums, including workers with same-sex partners, part-time workers, and low-income workers.
  • Publish data on compliance with the new legal requirements on employer accommodation of breastfeeding, and promote awareness of the law among employers and employees.
  • Amplify outreach to workers and employers to raise awareness of FMLA rights and obligations, including with respect to the definition of “son or daughter” as it applies to workers “in loco parentis” to a child.

To the US Congress

  • Enact legislation to guarantee national paid family leave. The legislation should ideally establish wage replacement for at least the period of leave allowed under the FMLA, offer sufficient wage replacement to make leave a realistic possibility for men and women, prohibit discrimination against workers requesting leave, cover all employees (including those working part time), enable self-employed individuals to opt in, and include meaningful penalties for employer non-compliance. Financing should be through a public family leave insurance mechanism, most likely funded through payroll tax deductions.
  • In the interim, expand access to unpaid FMLA leave, including by decreasing the firm size for FMLA coverage and expanding worker eligibility by lowering the length of tenure and hours-worked requirements. Also extend eligibility to reflect the care-giving needs of extended families and families with same-sex partners.
  • Enact legislation to establish a grant program to help states provide wage replacement to workers on family leave through public family leave insurance programs. In the interim, include funds in the federal budget for the Department of Labor to offer grants to states for paid leave programs.
  • Enact the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act in accordance with aims to have the federal government act as a model employer.
  • Amend federal anti-discrimination legislation to explicitly make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of family care-giving responsibilities.
  • Enact other bills that would provide supports for working families and promote gender equality, including the Working Families Flexibility Act, the Healthy Families Act, and legislation to better address the gender wage gap.
  • The Senate should approve the ratification of key treaties that include rights to paid family leave and work-family supports, especially the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, without harmful reservations.

To the White House

  • Continue efforts to catalyze state innovation on paid leave by including the state paid leave grant fund in the FY 2012 and subsequent budgets.
  • Continue to speak out publicly about the need for paid family leave, work-family supports, and protections against discrimination for workers with family responsibilities.

To the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

  • Closely monitor and publish data on cases of discrimination against workers with family responsibilities, and amplify efforts to inform employers about the ways that discrimination against family caregivers can violate federal law.
  • Commission a study on the increasing numbers of pregnancy discrimination charges. Increase efforts to enforce the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and sanction violators. Amplify efforts to raise awareness among workers and employers about their rights and duties under the Act, and to assist victims in pursuing discrimination claims.

To State Governments

  • Enact state paid family leave laws. The legislation should offer sufficient wage replacement, include job protections and prohibit discrimination against workers requesting leave, cover all employees, enable self-employed individuals to opt in, and include meaningful penalties for employer non-compliance. Financing should be through a public family leave insurance mechanism, most likely funded through payroll tax deductions.
  • Establish multi-sector task forces or other bodies to study feasible approaches to providing work-family supports, including paid leave, and provide adequate resources for their work. Include government representatives, lawmakers from all major political parties, nongovernmental experts, healthcare professionals, business and labor leaders, and worker representatives.
  • In states without such laws, enact legislation on workplace accommodations for pumping or breastfeeding at work, in particular to cover the workers not covered by the federal health care law’s provisions on breastfeeding accommodation.
  • Enact laws on other work-family supports, including laws on paid sick days and laws to protect employees requesting flexible working conditions from retaliation.
  • Enact or amend state anti-discrimination laws to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of family care-giving responsibilities. State authorities charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws should ensure that cases of employment discrimination on the basis of family care-giving responsibilities are investigated and prosecuted under existing legal theories.
  • States with existing paid family leave insurance programs should increase efforts to raise public awareness about the programs, and funds should be allocated for outreach. They should also gather data on access to paid family leave benefits by disadvantaged classes of workers. The laws establishing the programs should be amended to include job protections for leave-takers.
  • State officials and lawmakers should convene discussions within multi-state policy forums on work-family legislation options, including on paid leave, flexible work arrangements, and protections against discrimination on the basis of family responsibilities.