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paid leave

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Grosso raises concerns over proposed paid family leave regulations in letter to DOES

Today, Councilmember David Grosso submitted comments to the Department of Employment Services (DOES) on the proposed regulations of the Universal Paid Leave Act.

When Councilmember Grosso introduced this legislation in 2015 he sought to establish a program that would relieve families in the District of Columbia of the difficult choice between a pay check and taking care of a new child or ailing loved one.

One of Grosso's primary motivations for championing this law was the economic security it provides to working families. It allows both fathers and mothers the necessary time to bond with their new child without having to worry about how they will provide for their new family during that time. As chairperson of the Committee on Education, he knows how important these critical early days are to a child’s development. He believe they are vital to ensuring youth are in the best position to succeed in school and career later in life.

However, in his letter, Grosso raises several concerns about the many barriers that exist in the proposed regulations that will keep UPLA benefits out of reach for many of the families who need them most.  Such obstacles threaten families’ economic well-being and deprive children of a quality experience in their early days.

Councilmember Grosso's full letter is below:

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Grosso sends letter to Mayor Bowser outlining budget priorities for FY2019

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Mayor Bowser outlining his budget priorities for the Mayor to consider for inclusion in her FY2019 budget proposal.

Ensuring that our students are in the best position to succeed remains Grosso's number one priority as the Chairperson of the Committee on Education.  Fully supporting our students, teachers, and school communities means providing the necessary resources.  For FY2019, Grosso asked the Mayor to:

1.       Meet the non-academic needs of our students through increased investment in the Department of Behavioral Health’s School-Based Mental Health program.

2.      Invest in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.

3.       Give our teachers the tools to educate all our students by funding school-based special education teacher training.

4.      Support the expansion of vital out-of-school time programs with increased funding for the Office of Out of School Time and Youth Outcomes.

5.      Continue equitable investment in community based organizations who are providing care to at-risk pre-kindergarten children.

6.      Aid child care providers by raising the subsidy reimbursement rates to more closely align with the cost of care.

Additionally, Grosso asked the Mayor to support funding for many of his policy priorities that have become law in the past few years:

1.       Provide financial stability for workers caring for themselves or their family by investing fully in the implementation of the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016.

2.      Assist residents managing their educational financing by funding a separate student loan ombudsman at the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking.

3.       Support the newly established D.C. State Athletics Commission with funding for two new full-time position.

4.      Provide equitable access to vital identity documents by funding fee exemptions for low-income residents.

5.      Remove the influence of big dollar donors and promote equitable participation in our local elections by fully funding the Fair Elections Amendment Act of 2017

You can read the full letter to Mayor Bowser below.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on mayor’s advancement of paid leave

For Immediate Release: 
February 16, 2017
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on mayor’s advancement of paid leave

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso released the following statement on the mayor’s advancement of the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015:

“We are now one step closer to relieving D.C. families and workers from the difficult choice between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.

“Paid leave provides financial stability to workers while allowing them to care for ailing family members. Parents who take leave after the arrival of a new child will return to work in better general health. More women will participate in the work place. Infant mortality will decline.

“The bill is also good for all businesses. They will now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees with a progressive benefit that they can offer to all their workers at a fraction of the cost of providing it themselves.

“All this while continuing the upward trajectory of D.C.’s thriving economy.

“I appreciate the mayor advancing this legislation without her signature. I recognize the concerns she raised and commit to working with her and the rest of the Council to address them as we move forward with implementation.

“I urge the Congress to respect D.C. and our democratic right to enact policies and allow paid leave to become law.”

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Council gives final approval to universal paid leave for D.C. workers

For Immediate Release: 
December 20, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Council gives final approval to universal paid leave for D.C. workers

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Council of the District of Columbia gave final approval to the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2015 which provides up to eight weeks of paid leave to workers in D.C.

“Today, the District of Columbia fundamentally changed how it treats workers,” Grosso, who co-introduced the bill in October 2015, said.  “Recognizing that our workers have responsibilities outside of their employment, the Council has voted to relieve them of the difficult choice between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.”

The bill provides employees who have a child through birth, adoption, foster care or other legal placement will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave.  It also provides up to six weeks of paid leave to D.C. workers to care for a family member experiencing a serious health condition, and up to two weeks for a personal serious health condition.

“Paid leave provides financial stability to workers while allowing them to care for ailing family members. Parents who take leave after the arrival of a new child would return to work in better general health. More women would participate in the work place. Infant mortality would decline,” Grosso said.

Workers will be able to receive up to 90 percent of their wages in those periods, capped at $1,000 per week.  Federal and local government employees will not be eligible for the benefits.

“The bill is also good for all businesses,” Grosso added. “They will now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees with a progressive benefit that they can offer to all their workers at a fraction of the cost of providing it themselves. All this while continuing the upward trajectory of D.C.’s thriving economy.”

“I want to thank Chairman Phil Mendelson and his staff for his tireless work to hone our bill into something that won such overwhelming approval today.” Grosso said. “I also greatly appreciate the partnership of Councilmember Elissa Silverman and the advocacy efforts of the D.C. Paid Leave Coalition, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Family Values @ Work, and others in articulating the need for paid family leave in the District of Columbia.  We would not be where we are today without all of their incredible work.”

The bill now goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her approval.

“Over 80 percent of D.C. residents support this legislation.  I urge the mayor to stand with the workers and families of D.C. and sign the bill.”

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Council to take second vote on universal paid leave next week

Last week, the Council stepped up for D.C. working families by advancing paid family leave on its first vote.  I was proud to introduce that legislation along with Councilmember Silverman last year and thankful for the work of Chairman Mendelson to get it to where it is now.

Paid leave is good for workers and businesses. It provides financial stability to workers while allowing them to care for ailing family members. Parents who take leave after the arrival of a new child would return to work in better general health. More women would participate in the work place. Infant mortality would decline. Businesses would have a new benefit to offer that makes them more competitive and able to attract better workers. The list goes on. All this while continuing the upward trajectory of the District’s thriving economy, according to the Council’s budget office.

The legislation that we have advanced is the best option to bring paid family leave to the District of Columbia.

It’s true these benefits will be extended to all those who work in the District of Columbia, but that does not detract from D.C. residents’ eligibility for the program.

Some critics have called for a system that only provides benefits to District residents, where the annual pay outs to beneficiaries would be smaller. 

However, the cost per employee would be higher due to fixed set-up and administrative costs. The fund that provides the payout would also be less stable since it would have a smaller pool.

Worst of all, it would harm D.C. residents by creating a perverse incentive for D.C. businesses to hire Virginia and Maryland residents over District-based workers in order to avoid paying into the fund.

All of our workplace laws protect and provide benefits based on where people work, not live.  The minimum wage increase, which was championed by the mayor and unanimously passed by the Council earlier this year, goes to workers regardless of where they live.  It sends over $313 million into neighboring jurisdictions annually, though it benefits far fewer people then paid leave and is far more than the total $242 million in annual benefits that paid leave would offer to ALL D.C. workers.  We supported it anyways because it was the right thing to do for our workers who needed it most. 

Many people who work here, don’t live in this city.  Our lack of statehood disadvantages us as policymakers when trying to raise revenue from them.  But that has never stopped us from doing the right thing for our workers and our residents.

We recognize that the working families of D.C. can’t wait for the injustice of our second-class status to be righted before relieving them of having to make the difficult choice between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.  That’s why eleven members of the Council voted yes on paid leave.

So call, email, and tweet your Councilmembers THANKS for supporting paid leave last week!  You can find all their information here by visiting www.dccouncil.us/council. 

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Council advances universal paid leave for D.C. workers

For Immediate Release: 
December 6, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council advances universal paid leave for D.C. workers

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Council of the District of Columbia passed out of the Committee of the Whole the Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2015 which provides up to eight weeks of paid leave to workers in D.C.

“Today is a victory for D.C. workers,” Grosso, who co-introduced the bill in October 2015, said.  “No longer will they need to risk financial ruin to address serious medical conditions or care for a newborn baby or other loved one.”

Under the legislation, employees who have a child through birth, adoption, foster care or other legal placement will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave.  It would also provide up to six weeks of paid leave to D.C. workers to care for a family member experiencing a serious health condition, and up to two weeks for a personal serious health condition.

Workers will be able to receive up to 90 percent of their wages in those periods, capped at $1,000 per week.  Federal and local government employees will not be eligible for the benefits.

“We will also give our local businesses the ability to offer a progressive benefit to all of their employees,” Grosso added. “They will now have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees.

“This is good for society. As a country we lag behind the rest of the world on family leave, but as a city we will be a leader.  Our success will provide further evidence of its benefits to jurisdictions across the country.”

“I want to thank Chairman Phil Mendelson for his commitment to bringing this bill up for consideration before the end of the year and the work he and his staff have done to make that possible,” Grosso said. “I also greatly appreciate the partnerships of Councilmember Elissa Silverman, the D.C. Paid Leave Coalition, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Family Values @ Work, and the many other advocates working on this measure.”

The bill is likely to pass a vote later today and then a second vote at the final legislative meeting of the Council on Dec. 20 before going to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature.

“I hope the Mayor will provide our workers and businesses the vast benefits this bill offers and support paid leave with her signature.”

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Revised paid leave bill would be nation’s most expansive

For Immediate Release: 
November 28, 2016
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105
mnocella@dccouncil.us

Revised paid leave bill would be nation’s most expansive

Washington, D.C. – Today, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson released details of a revised version of the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, which Councilmember David Grosso introduced along with Councilmember Silverman in October of 2015.

“I introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act over a year ago to support D.C. workers and families, while giving our local businesses a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees," Grosso said. "Today’s revised version holds true to those principles. I look forward to voting in support of the bill when it comes before the full Council next Tuesday.”

Under the revised legislation, employees who have a child through birth, adoption, foster care or other legal placement will be eligible for 11 weeks of paid leave.  It would also provide 8 weeks of paid leave to D.C. workers to care for a family member experiencing a personal serious health condition.

“Even revised, this legislation offers the most expansive paid leave benefit in the country,” Grosso said.  “It puts workers in a better position to care for their families while providing a benefit that is not available anywhere else. That is something we should be very proud to vote for.”

The bill’s definition of family and major events are inclusive of the diversity of D.C.’s workers and families, including low-income workers, single-parent households, caregiving for non-child family members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and more.

The program will be funded through an employer-paid payroll tax of just 0.62%.

“I want to thank Chairman Mendelson for his commitment to bringing this bill up for consideration before the end of the year and everything he and his staff have done to make that possible,” Grosso said. “I also greatly appreciate the efforts of Councilmember Silverman, the D.C. Paid Leave Coalition, the National Partnership for Women and Families, Family Values @ Work, and the many other advocates working on this measure.

“It is time for the Council to finally act on this legislation and I urge my colleagues to support it next Tuesday.”

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Grosso's opening statement from second hearing on Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. I would like to thank you for scheduling and holding this series of hearings. Your approach to constructing a witness list and timing the hearings on this bill allow everyone to hear diverse perspectives on the “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015” and get us to the most informed place as we move forward. 

At this point, we are all aware that, as introduced, Bill 21-415, “The Universal Paid Leave Act” will establish a fund to enable workers in the District of Columbia or individuals paying into the fund to receive some amount of paid leave for a qualifying event such as birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or for self-care. The fund will be supported by payments from employers, the self-employed, and certain individual employees.

As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I believe that investing in our families will benefit the lives of all of our residents and our city’s children. This bill will help workers take the time they need to support their families or themselves without having to make the hard choice between a paycheck and their immediate health needs. Numerous studies and data have shown that forms of paid leave are good for people of all ages and help to retain a strong and productive workforce.

The economic data we need in order to come to a final conclusion on this legislation is extremely complicated and how we apply those numbers is contentious. We are here today to get as much information as we can to inform the process and ensure that we are aware of exactly what the fiscal and economic impact of this bill will be. 

I believe that the long-term effects will be good for our businesses and the economy of the District of Columbia.  It will increase a person’s likelihood to return to work after a qualifying event, therefore decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover. It will make the District of Columbia a city where people want to work and have children, and it will give all of our businesses a competitive edge by offering progressive benefits packages at a lower cost than they can now.

During the drafting process and since the first hearing, my office and many others have been using tax data, employee numbers, the data from California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and the preliminary findings of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which has been studying our current paid leave policies in the D.C. Government. The introduction of this legislation has enabled many of our fiscal partners, who are here today, to create more sophisticated models and deeper sets of numbers, so that we as legislators can determine what is feasible.  

As written, the bill has over ten variables that if adjusted would lower the cost of the bill or the burdens on employers or residents. In our conversations about the proposed legislation, I have heard many of the concerns and believe there are shifts that can be made and we are analyzing all of them closely.   

As the bill moves through the  process at the Council, I am committed to continuing to work closely with our Chief Financial Officer, the Council budget office, Chairman Mendelson, businesses, advocates, and experts to complete the details of what options we have for providing the best amount of paid family and medical leave for the maximum number of D.C. workers.

We have a lot of work to do to get to a final piece of legislation that everyone can be proud of and take responsibility for and that will help all of our workforce and qualifying residents to take the paid time off that they need without creating a new and extreme burden on our businesses.  

With that, I want to thank everyone who is here today or is submitting testimony for the record. I appreciate the time that you have all taken, regardless of your position on the bill, to study it and provide us with your feedback.

I look forward to the testimony and engaging in a robust dialogue with the witnesses. Thank you. 

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Grosso's opening statement at hearing on the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.  I would like to thank you for scheduling and holding this hearing today and for your thoughtful approach to constructing a witness list that will allow us to hear diverse perspectives on the “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015.”

At this point, we are all aware that as introduced, Bill 21-415, “The Universal Paid Leave Act” will establish a fund that will enable workers in the District of Columbia to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or for self-care.  The fund will be supported by payments from employers, the self-employed, and certain individual employees.

Since I became a Councilmember, I have been exploring ways to support our working families.  In 2014, I introduced legislation that was later incorporated in the Budget Support Act that allowed for D.C. government employees to be eligible for 8 weeks paid leave.  At that time, I made the promise to continue the work started on paid leave and to study how we could expand this policy to all workers in the District of Columbia. 

As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I believe that investing in our families will benefit the lives of all of our residents and our city’s children.  This bill will help workers take the time they need to support their families or themselves without having to make the hard choice between a pay check and their loved one’s immediate needs.  Study after study has shown that forms of paid leave are good for children, parents, and the elderly.

 

The long-term effects of this bill are good for our businesses.  It will increase a person’s likelihood to return to work after a qualifying event, therefore decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover.  It will make the District of Columbia a city where people want to work and live, and it will give all of our businesses a competitive edge for offering progressive benefits packages at a lower cost than they can now.

Prior to introduction and since, I have met or spoken directly with the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, the Hospital Association, the Restaurant Association, the Hotel Association, Georgetown University, Trinity College, small business owners, union leaders, and individuals to review all of the variables of the legislation.  In these meetings, the conversations have been thoughtful, and open from all parties to find ways that we can explore to make this legislation possible for as many employees as we can and with low cost burdens to our employers.  

During the drafting process, my staff and I worked to model the implications of such a robust program to provide for our families and residents.  We looked at tax numbers, employee numbers, and the preliminary findings of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which has been studying our current paid leave policies in the D.C. Government.   I understand the desire of constituents and business leaders to have more sophisticated models and deeper sets of numbers, but the fact is that pulling, analyzing, and compiling this data is technical and complicated and it is not until legislation is introduced that we can set the wheels in motion for sound research.

As written, the bill has over ten variables that if adjusted would lower the cost of the bill or the burdens on employers or residents.  In our conversations about the proposed legislation, I have heard many of the concerns and believe there are shifts that can be made and we are analyzing all of them closely.   

As the bill moves through the hearing process at the Council, I am working closely with our Chief Financial Officer, the Council budget office, Chairman Mendelson, businesses, and advocates to fill out the details of what options we have for providing the best amount of paid family and medical leave for the maximum number of D.C residents, while ensuring that we are covering low income workers who are least likely to have access to any form of paid leave.

Today, we start the public conversation about the proposed bill and the variables that are problematic for some or are supported by others.  The hearing process is one that is essential for having an open and transparent conversation, so that we can speak frankly and have our positions placed on the record.  This is the beginning of an engaging process with all parties; it may take time and at times we may not agree, but I do believe that in the end, we will have a working program that our city can be proud of and D.C. can continue being a national policy leader. 

It is important to note that I am not naïve and have not taken up this proposal lightly.  It was not quickly drafted or without serious thought.  I knew two years ago that this process would not be easy.  With serious thought come reservations about the consequences – both intended and unintended – for everyone this bill will affect.  Frankly, the consequences that matter the most to me are the ones primarily affecting our residents: the infants who are born prematurely, the mothers forced back to work two weeks postpartum, and the sick or injured elderly parents with little to no access to quality care. 

I do not take the effects this bill will have on businesses lightly and that is why we are here today, asking you how we can be industry leaders and make systematic changes to the way we treat the people who work in the District of Columbia.

Yes, I have heard some of you say “we are moving fast and we are getting ahead of the rest of the nation on paid leave” and to that I ask: are we really moving that quickly or are we actually way behind?  Why should we not lead on policies that support businesses, expand industries and also allow working families to care for themselves and their loved ones?   

With that, I want to thank everyone who is here today or is submitting testimony for the record.  I appreciate the time that you have all taken, regardless of your position on the bill, to study it and provide us with your feedback.

I look forward to the testimony and engaging in a robust dialogue with the witnesses.    

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Businesses Criticize D.C. Paid-Leave Bill, But Struggle To Offer Alternatives

By Martin Austermuhle, December 2, 2015, WAMU

Business groups representing just about every industry in the District — from hotels and restaurants to retailers and builders — strongly criticized a proposed paid-leave bill during a D.C. Council hearing on Wednesday, but struggled to offer alternatives or possible changes to the measure when pressed by legislators.

The groups said the bill — which would offer virtually all D.C. workers up to 16 weeks of paid family leave, with the costs covered by a per-employer tax on employers — would dramatically increase operating costs for local businesses, many of which would stop hiring or leave the city altogether.

"This bill would kill D.C. jobs," said Harry Wingo of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. "This would revive D.C.’s reputation as a high-tax, business-unfriendly place," offered Charles Miller of the Federal City Council. “At the end of the day, you can’t take leave from a job you don’t have or doesn’t exist," warned Cailey Locklair Tolle of the Maryland Retailers Association.

Others worried about the potential for abuse, criticized the lack of specifics on how much the measure could cost different businesses and organizations, and said that D.C. would be jumping far ahead of the three states that currently offer paid leave — both in how much time is given and who would pay for it.

But the consistent drumbeat of criticisms drew pointed questions from Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who pressed the groups to offer alternatives to the bill — or outline specific changes they would want seen to make the bill more agreeable.

In one particularly animated exchange, he asked Wingo a series of questions about whether the business community could support the overall concept of paid leave for workers. "Do you agree that benefits are beneficial to employees? Is it best for employers if they pay no benefits to their employees?"

Changes likely

Mendelson's questioning seemed to reflect the political reality surrounding the bill, which was introduced in October. With a majority of the Council already supporting the measure — and polling showing it has drawn wide support from residents — he said earlier this week that whether the bill passes isn't the question, but rather what would be included in a final version.

As currently written, the bill would require all private employers to contribute to a fund from which leave benefits would be paid. Workers making up to $52,000 a year would have their full salary covered, while those making more would see a declining percentage of everything above the $52,000 covered. The top pay-out would be $3,000 per week.

"This bill is for people who have to make heartbreaking choices," said Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large). She said it would help people take time to care for newborns or ailing relatives, some of whom currently have no paid leave at all.

But in moving towards that goal, Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) — who with Silverman introduced the bill — said the sweeping measure wasn't set in stone. "As written, the bill has 10 variables that would lower the costs on businesses," he said, offering critics a chance to offer changes.

And some business leaders did. Jim Dinegar of the Greater Washington Board of Trade said he would want the issue addressed at the federal level, to avoid creating a regional imbalance where one jurisdiction would offer paid leave while others didn't.

Kathy Hollinger of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington said leave should be limited to workers who have been on the job for at least one year, and asked that provisions requiring employers to notify their workers of paid-leave rights be simplified.

And Steve Hoffman, who owns a local insurance company that has operated in the city since 1906, asked that the leave be cut to eight weeks — and that it be paid for in part by the employee taking the leave. Without some changes, he worried the increased costs would force him to move — or close.

"We've always felt the need to stay and pay back a city that has given us so much," he said. "But if the [bill] passes in its present form, we will have to consider leaving the District because we compete against not only D.C. agents, but also agents across the country."

Containing costs

It was concerns like those that prompted Mendelson to ask proponents of the bill — who largely spoke in personal terms about the bill — to address the costs of implementing paid leave.

"There is a cost to this," he said to a panel of advocates for the bill. "There's no question [paid leave] would help children, families and low-income folks. It could change a whole lot of social problems we have. That's not the issue. I need you to speak to the cost."

"We have to wait until we get the actual calculations of what it would cost to provide this benefit," said Ed Lazere of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, speaking to a reality that hung over the hearing throughout the day — no final calculations on the bill's costs have been produced, nor has a study funded by the U.S. Labor Department on a number of paid-leave proposals for D.C. been finalized.

But even without those specifics in place, Lazere pushed back on the argument that it would drive businesses to close or into the surrounding states.

"After raising the minimum wage, they don't tend to lose employees, they don't tend to move. Businesses are flexible, they can respond to the added costs through a variety of means," he said.

Proponents also said that the bill could actually serve to help small businesses that can't currently afford to offer any leave, and pointed out that more and more large businesses are instituting paid-leave policies as a means to attract and retain top talent.

At one point, Silverman noted that Wingo of the Chamber of Commerce once worked for Google, which recently implemented an 18-week paid-leave policy. She also pointed out that Miller of the Federal City Council doubles as a senior attorney at Covington and Burling, a powerhouse legal firm that also offers 18 weeks of paid leave.

That raised another concern on the bill — what happens with businesses and organizations that already offer paid leave? John Cavanaugh, speaking on behalf of the Consortium of Universities, noted that the city's 10 universities were extremely concerned with how the measure would affect the leave they already offer.

"The consortium strongly supports the concept of paid leave, and has several types of paid leave in effect as evidence," he said. "The consortium opposes the unfunded mandate that will cost institutions in the District $15 million per year to implement a one-size-fits-all program that may not address the needs of our employees."

The diverse groups that could be affected by the paid-leave bill will have a chance to continue weighing in over the next few months, as Mendelson has said he will call at least two more hearings before any further action is taken on the proposal.

And despite uncertainty over what form the bill could ultimately take, Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) — who supports the measure — said that even having the debate is a positive step forward.

"I doubt the legislation will emerge in same form, but it starts the conversation," she said. "It’s a conversation that’s long overdue."

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Grosso Introduces Universal Paid Leave Legislation

For Immediate Release

October 6, 2015

Contact: Darby Hickey

(202) 724-8105

 

Grosso Introduces Universal Paid Leave Legislation

Washington, D.C.--Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, along with Councilmembers Silverman, Allen, Nadeau, May, McDuffie, and Cheh. This legislation, which would give 16 weeks paid leave to all workers in D.C., follows Grosso’s success last year to give D.C. government employees 8 weeks of paid family medical leave.

 “As a country we lag behind the rest of the world on family leave—we need pro-family policies that encourage care taking and nurturing,” said Grosso. “The Universal Paid Leave Act will support our D.C. workers and families, while giving our local businesses a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified employees.”

The bill, which Grosso co-wrote with Councilmember Silverman, would allow any employee in D.C., or any D.C. resident employed outside of the city, to access a government-run fund that would pay for up to 16 weeks of leave for a qualifying event. Qualifying events include a baby born or adopted, or major medical operations for the worker or a family member. The bill’s definition of family and major events are inclusive of the diversity of D.C.’s workers and families, including low-income workers, single-parent households, caregiving for non-child family members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, and more.

“In D.C. we have been a leader on paid sick days, on raising the minimum wage, and providing paid family leave for government employees,” said Councilmember Silverman. “With this legislation, we once again position D.C. as a national leader on policies that bolster our families, workers, and employers.”

“I am very supportive of this legislation", said Michael Visser of Flying Fish Coffee and Tea. "As a small business, the proposed program would allow me to support paid family leave that I otherwise could not afford,  not only for my own employees, but employees throughout the city."

Research shows that paid leave for either parent after the birth or adoption of a child has a significant positive outcome for the child’s future academic success. After California and New Jersey enacted paid leave programs, employers stated that the new law had a positive effect on employee retention, productivity, and profitability. Read more about the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 below.

To read a copy of the bill, click here.

BILL SPECIFICS:

The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a system for District of Columbia workers to receive up to 16 weeks of paid leave for a major life event such as birth or adoption of a child or caring for a sick or injured family member or for self-care.  District of Columbia employers would pay into a city managed fund on a per-employee basis estimated to be less than 1% of the payroll.

Who takes: Any person working in the district for 50% or more of the preceding year for any covered employer.  Self-employed individuals can pay in and be covered; private residents will pay in for themselves and be covered.  DC Government Employees would continue to get their salary during paid leaves, rather than being part of this system, but the number of weeks of leave would be raised from 8 to 16 and add their own serious health conditions as a reason for taking leave.  D.C. residents who work for the federal government or an employer outside of D.C. will pay into the fund individually, as will self-employed D.C. residents.

How much does the employee get?  Up to 16 weeks for a qualifying event.  Wage replacement is Benefits would equal 100% of average weekly wages up to $1,000 a week and then 50% of average earnings above that amount, up to a maximum benefit of $3,000 a week.

Who pays: Covered employer means any individual, partnership, general contractor, subcontractor, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee, but shall not include the United States or the District of Columbia.

How much does the employer pay? A scaled percentage of their employee’s wage for that pay roll period (less than 1% of the annualized salary before taxes).

What is a qualifying event?     

  • Qualifying event means one of the following:
    1. The birth of a child of the employee;
    2. The legal placement of a child with the employee (such as through adoption, guardianship, or foster care);
    3. The placement with the employee of a child for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibilities; or
    4. Care for a family member or personal serious health condition
  • Family member means
    1. A person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody, domestic partnership, or marriage;
    2. A foster child;
    3.  A child who lives with the employee and for whom the employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility; or
    4. A person with whom the employee shares or has shared, within the last year, a mutual residence and with whom the employee maintains a committed relationship. 
  • Personal Care for a "Serious health condition" – this definition is expansive and inclusive so that our LGBTQ population can access leave for procedures that require hospitalization or managed care. The Bill contains inclusive definition of serious health conditions, caregiving, needs for military families, and other reasons for long-term paid leave.

Is the person’s job protected?  D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) currently protects many employees from termination or other forms of retaliation for taking a leave (which would typically be unpaid, but could include vacation or sick days as a part). Currently, the D.C. FMLA applies to, Businesses with 20 or more employees in the District; and Employees who have worked for the same employer more than a year and worked 1,000 or more hours in the year leading up to their leave request.  The legislation would make only modest changes to job protections under the DC FMLA. It would decrease the hours and month requirement for eligibility for job protection, leave the small business exemption in place, and amends the definitions of “family” and “serious health condition” to match those in other laws.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (link)

BACKGROUND:

Infographic: How Access to Paid Leave Helps Fathers

Infographic: To Promote Women’s Leadership, We Need Public Policy 

The Business Case for Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days 

Business School Faculty Letter to Congress

The Economic Benefits of Family and Medical Leave Insurance 

The Science Behind Why Paid Parental Leave is Good for Everyone 

Small Business Majority Research on Paid Family Leave 

The Cost of Doing Nothing, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Perez

 

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Frequently Asked Questions: Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015

1. Why does D.C. need the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015?

The Universal Paid Leave Act would allow workers to care for themselves and their loved ones when major life events arise. Paid family medical leave helps families and  workers to be healthier and happier. For businesses, the legislation allows them to retain talented and dedicated employees, while avoiding the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover and on-boarding. A robust paid family and medical leave program will give D.C. employers a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining highly qualified workers.

2. What would this legislation mean for employees?

The bill would cover up to 16 weeks of paid leave annually for a qualifying event (family bonding or personal/family medical issues).  100% of an employee’s wages will be replaced for the first $1,000 of her or his average weekly salary and then 50% thereafter up to $3,000 a week.

Example:  Your annual salary is $50,000.  You are a new father and want to take time off to be with your adopted child.  You elect to take off 8 weeks and qualify to take leave after applying and having your eligibility verified. Your average weekly salary is $961, so you will receive that full amount for the entire 8 weeks.

3.  Who is covered by the proposed legislation?

All District of Columbia employees are eligible for paid family medical leave if they are residents of the city or spend more than 50% of their time working for an employer in the city. Employees are eligible to receive payments from the family medical leave fund at the start of employment. However, employees are only eligible for job protection after six months or 500 hours of work in a 12-month period. 

4. What are the responsibilities of an employer?

An employer pays a percentage (estimated 1% or less) from payroll for each employee into the government managed family medical leave fund. The fund administrators will be required to verify and process claims and will then pay the employees directly. The fund administrators would also handle any related investigations or appeals.

5. How will the proposed legislation be funded?

The Universal Paid Leave Act creates a city-managed fund financed by an employer-based cost-sharing model. Similar to Unemployment Insurance, all D.C. employers (except the federal and local government) will pay up to 1% of payroll into the fund. This fund would be administered by the D.C. government—keeping the burden off of employers—and the fund size will have  a maximum limit.

6. What is the difference between paid sick days and paid family medical leave?

Paid family medical leave is different than paid sick days. It would be used only for birth or adoption of a child, or for a major medical event. The estimated average cost per employee paid by the employer will be $385 annually and that amount will cover the employee for up to 16 weeks of paid leave—far less than paying directly out of pocket which will give businesses the opportunity to offer competitive benefits packages.

7. Is the employer required to hold the employee’s job during leave?

Yes, the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act standards provide 16 weeks of job protection that is unpaid. The Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015 proposes to extend job protection to employees who have worked for 6 months or 500 hours in a 12 month period. 

8. What if all the staff at a small business take leave at the same time?

We do not underestimate the effects that long-term leave has on businesses, but this is unlikely to be a problem—nationally only 13% of workers take family medical leave annually. The bill aims to enable workers to take the time they need to care for themselves or family members when the situation arises and then return to work at full capacity. The ability to retain talented and dedicated employees, and avoid the high costs and lengthy processes associated with staff turnover, makes paid family medical leave good business, no matter a business’ size.

8. What if I reverse commute or my employer is not mandated to pay into this fund?

If your employer is not required to pay into the fund, then you, as a resident, will pay into the system on your own behalf thereby enabling you to receive benefits when you become a parent or personal or family medical situations arise.  If you are a self-employed individual then you are automatically enrolled in the system to pay into the fund and receive the benefit.

9. What other jurisdictions have paid leave?

New Jersey (2008), California (2002), and Rhode Island (2013) have income tax-based family leave and temporary disability insurance policies that cannot be implemented in D.C. because of federal Home Rule restrictions on taxing income. We have, however, learned from the strengths and challenges with these programs and have incorporated their best practices into the D.C. legislation.  Globally, the United States lags behind other countries that all offer some form of paid leave for their citizens.  

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A Good Day for D.C.

I just came from a mark-up of education bills that increased our investment per student in areas of the city that need it the most. Now I am gladly supporting an increase in the minimum wage and sick leave for restaurant workers. These two items are not unrelated – and in fact, I am very pleased to support our students and increase wages for entry level positions. This is a two-front battle against generational poverty.

Increasing the minimum wage is a victory for workers. It is long overdue and I am very happy to see that we won’t have to have a jump like this again now that we have indexed the wage including cost-of-living increases. Businesses in the region can now have the certainty they are seeking and workers in the area have come close to realizing the entry level living wage that they deserve.

I introduced an amendment to the bill that will hopefully make the minimum wage reporting provision less burdensome on restaurants by requiring all minimum wage certifications to be available online. I will follow up with the appropriate agency to ensure this is a simple one-click certification if no wages had to be supplemented and a two-click process when wages do have to be supplemented. All enforcement and certification should fall on the agency, not on the business. Businesses just need to keep good records in case of an audit, as they should anyway. The desired outcome of this provision, and this amendment to it, is an increase of prosecution of bad actors and less burden on responsible business owners.

Voting today to support a focused effort to improve education where it is most needed and higher wages for those who most need it is why I ran for office. This is a good day for D.C. 

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