States Pushing Time Off For Employees

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
June 25, 2009

Various state legislatures are considering proposals that would require businesses to grant employees time off for personal or family reasons.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Colorado and Nevada recently became the first states in a decade to pass laws that grant unpaid leave for employees attending school-related events. Colorado, which requires companies with 50 or more employees to grant workers 18 hours toward the leave, limits it to activities such as parent-teacher conferences or disciplinary meetings. Nevada, meanwhile, permits time off for any school activity such as field trips, athletic events and school plays.

Moreover, paid family leave is being debated in approximately 12 other states. Buffalo Business First reports that New York is considering a law that would require businesses, regardless of their size, to provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off a year so employees can tend to new babies, adopted children or seriously ill family members. While federal law requires 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for companies with more than 50 employees, currently only California, Washington and New Jersey have a paid family leave mandate.

The measures reflect the new Democratic majorities in many state legislatures. In New York, for example, the Democrats now control the Senate for the first time in 43 years.

"Most people can't afford to take unpaid time from work. Paid family and medical leave would enable workers to care for their family members without losing their economic stability," Democrats wrote in a memo about the New York legislation.

But business advocates argue that such measures ultimately harm workers. Randy Johnson, vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pointed out in The Journal that employers may have to reduce wages or benefits to pay for the programs.

"We have to realize that there's only so much we can dump on businesses that are already in a bad economy, on top of what's already been done this session," Mike Elmendorf, director of the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, told Buffalo Business First.

But other groups said that such measures were long overdue. "Ensuring paid family and medical leave for all workers is good for our families, our health and for business," writes New America Media. "It is time that we follow the lead of every other industrialized nation and provide our workers peace of mind."

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