Monday, November 28, 2016

Paid Family Leave and the Irresistible Force of Baby Cuteness (Updated 12/20/16 to add kittens!)

As reported in the Washington Post, the D.C. Council is on the brink of passing a law that would require employers to provide up to 11 weeks of paid leave for employees to bond with newborn or adopted children and up to 8 weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member.

Whatever the merits of the arguments for paid family leave, I can't help but think that the D.C. Council's approach is ass backwards. As noted in the Post article, the law would not require paid leave for self-care. Thus, if Joe Schmo needs to take eight weeks off to take care of his own medical needs, his employer would not have to pay him for his time off. But if Joe's wife, Jane, takes eight weeks off to care for Joe while he is sick, then Jane's employer would have to pay her for her time off.

Personal leave is more fundamental than the other forms of leave being adopted by the D.C. Council because it directly benefits all employees, not just those with children or close family members. Imagine if an employer were to provide health insurance benefits for its employees' spouses and dependents but not for the employees themselves. That would defy common sense, and the D.C. Council's approach to paid leave is no different. 

A prior version of the law would have included paid leave for self-care, but the business community balked at the cost. So the D.C. Council had to make a choice. Should they help babies, who would benefit from paid leave for family bonding, or should they help middle-aged adults, who would benefit from paid leave for their own medical conditions? When faced with this kind of choice, common sense goes out the window. Who can resist those big eyes and chubby cheeks?

Update 12/20/16:  The final legislation passed today by a veto-proof 9-4 majority provides up to eight weeks of parental leave, six weeks of leave to care for an ill family member, and two weeks of personal sick leave. This isn't as lopsided as the proposed legislation discussed above, but it still heavily favors family leave over personal sick leave.  

When you get into a fight with a baby, you may get in a few good punches, but the baby always wins, unless, of course, you have a kitten on your side.

This blog reflects the views solely of its author. It is not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice on how to analyze any particular set of facts.