Congress Considering Bills Providing Paid Leave, Flexible Schedules

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By Ilyse Wolens Schuman

This month, a handful of bills were introduced that seek to create a national right to paid leave, and entitle employees to request flexible work terms and conditions.

The first measure, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, known as the FAMILY Act, (H.R. 1439, S. 786), was introduced in the U.S. Senate by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT. This legislation would establish a national, gender-neutral paid family and medical leave insurance program.

Modeled on California, New Jersey programs

As discussed in a press release, the FAMILY Act:

Would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect contributions and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of two-tenths of one percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget. The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of a cup of coffee a week. Benefit levels, modeled on existing successful state programs in New Jersey and California, would equal 66 percent of an individual’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount that would be indexed for inflation.”

The bill would make leave available to all workers for up to 60 workdays or 12 weeks regardless of employer size.

The push for paid leave has been growing at the state and local levels. While the federal measure is not likely to move this congressional term, expect more states to introduce and enact paid leave bills over the coming year.

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Flexibility for Working Families Act introduced

With respect to increased workplace flexibility, Sen. Bob Casey, D-PA, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-NY,  introduced the Flexibility for Working Families Act (H.R. 1450, S. 777), a bill that would give workers:

  • The right to request temporary or permanent change to the number of hours they are required to work;
  • When and where they are required to work or be on call; and,
  • Notice of scheduled assignments.

Under the terms of the bill, employers would have to engage in an interactive process with the employee to review and consider the request. While this measure, like the other federal bills, are not expected to advance, similar efforts have gained traction at the state and local level.

Late last year, for example, San Francisco adopted two new ordinances known as the Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which, among other requirements, mandates that covered employers provide employees with advance scheduling information. As with the paid leave trend, states lawmakers are becoming more inclined to push flexible workplace legislation, so multi-state employers are advised to pay close attention to local legislative activity.

This was originally published on Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Update blog© 2015 Littler Mendelson. All Rights Reserved. Littler®, Employment & Labor Law Solutions Worldwide® and ASAP® are registered trademarks of Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Ilyse W. Schuman is a shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of Littler Mendelson. She provides strategic counsel and representation to clients on a broad array of workplace issues and developments in Congress and executive branch federal agencies.

She is a member of the firm's Government Affairs practice and works with employers in multiple industries, including trade associations. She also leads the firm's Legislative and Regulatory practice.

A former top congressional staffer and policy advisor, Ilyse worked on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2001 to 2008, serving as minority staff director and chief counsel. She began her work in the Senate as chief labor counsel for Senator Mike Enzi on the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, where she led legislative and oversight activities.

After leaving the Senate, Schuman joined a leading trade association of electro-industry manufacturers as vice president, where she served as managing director of the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, the collective voice of medical imaging equipment manufacturers. Additionally, she served as in-house counsel at a manufacturer and market and technology leader, where she advised the company on human resource matters. In law school, she was a member of the Journal of Law and Policy in International Business.

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