Progress for Working Families Sweeps the Nation

| Jun 21, 2013

From Connecticut to Oregon to Hawaii, lawmakers in states across the country are stepping up to pass proposals that increase working families’ ability to be responsible employees and family members without sacrificing their financial stability.

Here are the latest victories and developments for working families and the dedicated coalitions of workers, businesses, lawmakers and advocates that make them possible:

In April, Colorado’s legislature passed the Family Care Act (H.B. 13-1222), an expansion of the state’s Family and Medical Leave Act that will allow workers to take leave to care for a domestic partner or a partner in a civil union. Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on May 3.

In Connecticut,* the state legislature approved the creation of a task force to study Family Medical Leave Insurance (H.B. 6553). The task force will study the feasibility of establishing an insurance program to provide short-term benefits to workers who are unable to work due to pregnancy or the birth of a child, a non-work-related illness or injury, or the need to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent.

The Hawaii legislature approved a breastfeeding expansion bill (S.B. 532) that would require employers with 50 or more workers to provide both reasonable break time and a clean, private location other than the bathroom to a worker every time she needs to express breast milk. While the governor has not yet signed the bill, it is a step forward that expands upon existing federal law, which only requires employers to provide breastfeeding accommodations for non-exempt employees.

On May 2, Maryland Governor O’Malley signed into law a bill that establishes a Task Force to study Temporary Disability Insurance programs (H.B. 955/S.B. 888). The task force will study the benefits available to injured and ill workers under state and federal law, and it will study and compare temporary disability insurance programs in other jurisdictions. Governor O’Malley also signed into law the Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy-Related Disability bill (H.B. 804/S.B. 784). The law requires employers with 15 or more workers to make reasonable accommodations for a worker’s temporary disability due to pregnancy or childbirth; it will become effective on October 1.

In Minnesota, Governor Dayton signed the Flexible Use of Sick Leave bill (S.F. 840) on May 24. The bill expands upon existing state law to increase the list of family members for whom accrued sick leave may be used. Businesses with 21 or more employees are required to allow their employees to use earned sick leave to care for an adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, stepparent or grandparent.

The New Jersey General Assembly passed the NJ SAFE Act (A-2919/S-2177). If signed into law by Governor Christie, the bill will give survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence 20 days of job-protected leave from work within the year of the incident.

The Oregon legislature recently passed two family friendly bills that expand access to unpaid leave. The Safe Leave Act (H.B. 2903) allows certain employees who are survivors or parents of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking to take reasonable, unpaid time off from work. It was signed by Governor Kitzhaber on June 6 and will go into effect on January 1, 2014. And the Bereavement Leave Bill (H.B. 2950), signed into law on June 13, will allow eligible workers to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave following the death of a family member.

Rhode Islands paid family leave bill, the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Act (H.B. 5889/S.B. 231), cleared the Senate Finance Committee on June 20 and could receive a vote in the full Senate next week. The bill would provide up to eight weeks of wage replacement to workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, parent-in-law or domestic partner, or to bond with a new child. To learn more about the campaign, visit

And on May 14, Vermont Governor Shumlin signed into law the comprehensive Act Relating to Equal Pay (H. 99). The equal pay law prohibits employers from penalizing workers for talking about their wages with their co-workers and ensures state contractors act in compliance with the statute. The law also includes a provision that allows workers the right to request a flexible work arrangement, such as working from home or job-sharing, without retaliation from their employer. Finally, the law establishes a paid family leave study committee to make recommendations about the benefits of paid family leave for Vermont citizens, including recommending proposed legislation to create a paid family leave program for Vermont’s workers.

At the National Partnership, we will continue to support these proposals and our local partners who are fighting to advance them, and similar measures in other states and cities. To find the latest information on the family friendly policies in your state, check out our Family Friendly America map. Additional information on state proposals can also be found in our Work & Family Policy Database.

* UPDATE, 6/24/2013: Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed H.B. 6553, establishing a task force to study Family Medical Leave Insurance in the state.

** UPDATE, 7/3/2013: The Rhode Island legislature passed the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Act and sent it to Governor Lincoln Chafee for signature. Once Governor Chafee signs the bill, Rhode Island will become the third state in the nation, after California and New Jersey, to guarantee paid leave for new parents and caregivers. The final legislation allows workers to receive up to four weeks of paid leave per year to care for an ill family member or new child. The temporary caregiver insurance program will build on Rhode Island’s existing temporary disability insurance program for personal medical leave. Congratulations to Rhode Island!