Paid Family Leave Statute to Take Effect in New York in 2018

Workers in New York City who are pregnant or who have recently given birth are protected by multiple statutes against pregnancy discrimination. While protections against losing one’s job or suffering a pay cut due to pregnancy, to name only two possible examples, are critically important, they do not address another major issue. The United States is one of the very few countries in the entire world that make no provision whatsoever for paid family leave, including parental leave after childbirth. Only four states currently have paid family leave systems. New York will become the fifth such state in 2018, when a bill signed into law in April 2016 takes effect.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees a certain amount of unpaid family leave for qualifying workers of covered employers. In addition to the fact that the leave is unpaid, many employers do not fall under the FMLA’s jurisdiction, and workers have to meet certain benchmarks for the total number of hours worked in order to qualify. As a result, the FMLA’s helpfulness is limited. Most of the world’s nations provide some form of paid family leave. Canada and the United Kingdom, for example, provide six months to one year of paid family leave. Germany, Sweden, Japan, and most countries in Eastern Europe provide a year or more. According to the World Policy Center, the United States joins Papua New Guinea and Suriname in offering no paid leave at all.

Aside from New York, four states have enacted paid family leave laws:  California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington. Three of those states have implemented paid leave programs as of mid-2016. Washington has not been able to get its program started yet, reportedly due to a lack of provisions for funding in the bill. New Jersey’s program uses a temporary disability insurance program funded by employer and employee contributions. It is available for a variety of situations, including parental leave within 12 months of the child’s birth, for a period of up to six weeks. N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 43:21-27(o), 43:21-38.

New York enacted a paid family leave law in 2016 in Part SS of Senate Bill S6406C. The bill defines “family leave” to include time spent by an employee “to bond with the employee’s child during the first twelve months after the child’s birth,” as well as the same period of time after the placement of a child with an employee for foster care or adoption. N.Y. Work. Comp. L. § 201(15)(b). “Child” is defined broadly to include stepchildren, children of a domestic partner, and a “person to whom the employee stands in loco parentis.” Id. at § 201(16).

Benefit payments come from the state insurance fund, based on employer and employee contributions. Id. at § 76(2). Additional provisions include protection against retaliation, id. at § 203-A; required reinstatement after a period of leave, id. at §§ 120, 203-B; and continuation of employer-sponsored health insurance during leave, id. at § 203-C.

Phillips & Associates’ pregnancy discrimination attorneys advocate for New York City employees and job seekers who have experienced pregnancy discrimination and other unlawful workplace practices. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you with your legal matter.

More Blog Posts:

How the Law Might Protect New Fathers in New York Against Caregiver Discrimination, New York Employment Attorney, November 4, 2016

New York Legislature Considers Paid Family Leave Law, New York Employment Attorney, April 13, 2016

Legal Protection Against Pregnancy Discrimination, Other Unlawful Employment Practices May Depend on Whether One Is an “Employee”, New York Employment Attorney, September 30, 2015

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