by Michelle Ruiz
Originally published: August 3, 2016
This Friday marks the 23rd anniversary of the implementation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the national law that grants 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees (those who work at companies with more than 50 employees and who have worked at said company for at least 12 months) who need to care for their children or other family members. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much major federal legislation designed to support working families (ahem, paid leave, affordable childcare) since. This despite the fact that nearly half of the American workforce is made up of women, and they have become primary breadwinners in 40 percent of families with children under age 18. It’s an oft-repeated stat that never gets less depressing: The United States is the only “high-wealth country” in the world that fails to provide paid leave to new mothers. (If we have to count small victories, at least paid leave is part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign platform?)
In the absence of major legislation at the federal level, whether or not employees get paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child, or whether there are laws in place to protect their right to take extra bathroom breaks or breast-feed at work, is contingent upon which state they live in. A new state-by-state analysis of working-family-focused policies by the National Partnership for Women and Families finds that while some strides are being made at the state level, 37 states receive grades of “C,” “D,” or “F,” the latter for 12 states that have failed to enact a single workplace policy to help expecting or new parents since the passage of FMLA.