Paid leave, in its many forms, has become a flashpoint for employment law across the U.S.
This whitepaper will cover the evolution of such laws, how the current zeitgeist has given rise to employee-friendly legislation, as well as the state of existing paid leave laws and what the future may hold.
Employers must increasingly grapple with the laws that apply to their workers, which vary widely by jurisdiction and complicate recordkeeping, benefits, payroll and more. We will examine the three types of laws we see most commonly today:
- Paid leave for any reason
- Paid sick leave
- Paid family and medical leave
Section 1: FMLA’s Impact on Paid Leave Laws
Before we can examine the impact of paid leave laws on employers today, we must first look back at the history of similar laws. That starts with the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was enacted in 1993. But the fight for its passage goes back to 1984, when a group called the Women’s Legal Defense Fund crafted the initial language that would later become the FMLA. Legislation stalled out for years before its passage.
Signed by then-President Bill Clinton, the FMLA marked the first measure to give workers protection for taking time off. No nationwide law requires employers to provide paid leave to employees, though the federal government will give paid parental leave to its more than 2 million employees starting in October 2020.
The FMLA requires employers to provide 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to workers under certain circumstances. There are limitations, however, especially when compared with the paid leave laws currently on the books across the country. The FMLA applies to:
- Employers with 50 or more workers in a 75-mile radius
- Employees who have worked 12 months and 1,250 hours
- Qualifying family and medical reasons
- Narrowly defined “family member”
The contrast is stark when comparing the FMLA to the paid leave laws cities, counties and states have enacted in the years since 1993. Still, the passage of the FMLA set the stage for the broader paid legislation we see today.
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