New York Legislature Considers Paid Family Leave Law

Employment statutes at the federal, state, and city levels in New York City protect workers against certain types of discrimination related to family responsibilities. These laws protect employees from adverse actions by employers, but they do not address the conflict between needing to care for a family member and needing to go to work to earn a living. The U.S. lags far behind most of the world’s countries when it comes to paid family leave. The New York State Assembly passed a bill in February 2016 that would provide paid family leave through the state’s disability insurance program, but its companion bill is still pending in the Senate.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and certain medical conditions related to either. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) contain similar provisions. N.Y. Exec. L. § 296(1)(a), N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(22). Recent amendments to the NYCHRL will also protect workers with caregiving responsibilities, such as for a minor child or a sick or disabled relative, from employment discrimination.

None of the above-referenced laws, however, provide for paid leave for employees due to pregnancy, childbirth, or caregiver responsibilities. The Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., requires unpaid leave for qualified employees of covered employers, but that is as far as U.S. federal law goes.

A report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2014 compared paid maternity and paternity leave policies in 185 countries. It found that 34 percent of these countries meet its recommendation of at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. It also found that the U.S. is almost alone in the world in providing no paid family leave, joined only by Oman and Papua New Guinea.

The ILO report found that over 100 countries use Social Security or other public funds to finance paid leave, thereby lessening the burden on individual employers. Three U.S. states currently provide paid family leave, and all of them do so through state disability insurance programs. The first such law took effect in California in 2004. New Jersey and Rhode Island followed in 2008 and 2013, respectively. Cal. Unemp. Ins. Code § 3300 et seq., N.J. Rev. Stat. 43:21-39.1, R.I. Gen. L. § 28-41-35.

The proposed paid family leave bill in New York would fund a similar program through the Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program. Employers would be able to use whatever mechanisms are already in place to comply with existing TDI requirements. The New York Assembly passed A3870 in early February 2016. The companion Senate bill, S3004A, has been pending in the Labor Committee since late January.

The pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates fight for the rights of employees and job seekers in the greater New York City area who have experienced unlawful employment practices like discrimination or retaliation. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced employee rights advocate.

More Blog Posts:

Study Highlights Difficulties Faced by Employees in New York and Around the U.S. During Pregnancy and After Giving Birth, New York Employment Attorney Blog, October 5, 2015

Many Employers Continue to Express Reluctance to Hire Women Who Might Become Pregnant, Despite Clear Laws on the Subject, New York Employment Attorney Blog, April 21, 2015

Fighting for the Right to Continue Working During Pregnancy, New York Employment Attorney Blog, February 11, 2015

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