And just as I was getting done saying that the United States won’t have a paid holiday leave bill any time soon, I need to move on to the latest developments in Washington state labor law—the passage of a bill that creates a minimum for employers in the amount of time they give employees of paid family leave off. We have talked about this bill before—oh, what would you say, my loyal readers, about two weeks ago when it first made its way through the Washington state legislature?
Anyway, just a couple days ago, the governor of the state, Gov. Christine Gregoire, signed the bill into law. What it will do is mandate that employers have to offer their workers as much as five weeks of paid time off, for such events as the birth of a child, or the adoption of a child. Starting October 1, 2009, these new parents would get from their employers up to $250 per week for those five weeks.
Where will this money come from? Not all of it will come from the employers, but where the rest of it will come from is still undecided. That will need to get figured out by a task force set up by the department of labor in the state to come up with feasible solutions. That is one of the reasons why these payments do not kick into effect until near the end of 2009—more than two years from now.
It could also explain why this Washington law is considered by some experts to be not as in-depth as a similar law passed in California back in 2002. That law gives employees the rights to get six weeks of paid leave off, whether it be for taking care of a sick child, spouse, older parent, or a registered so called domestic partner, or to spend time with a newborn child or a newly adopted child. The Cali law also allows for as much as $882 per week to be given to these employees. The way that the Golden State pays for these weekly benefits is through the state taking out a deduction from all employee payrolls—of as much as 0.08 percent of the payrolls.
One thing of note with the California law is that not as many employees have been taking advantage of it as people first thought. That is an interesting question, and one I have no answers for. (You will be the first to know if I eventually do track down why the California system is not running as busy as first thought.) But what the California situation could provide is perhaps a forecast of things to come in Washington state. We will have to wait and see.
One of the confusing things about these paid family leave laws could be that some employers and employees might get them confused with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is the federal law passed in 1993 that allows employees to take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid time off for medical and family issues—such as pregnancies, births, adoptions, sick children and spouses, or serious illness with the employee themselves. This is the law that employers have to have included in their collection of labor law posters—the FMLA poster, or Family and Medical Leave Poster.
The important distinction with the Family and Medical Leave Act, however, and these state labor laws is that the Family and Medical Leave Act only gives employees the right to unpaid time off—whereas the Washington and California state laws give paid time off.