Policies that support working women and families are often not only a matter of economic justice, but also an urgent matter of public health. On National Women’s Health Day, here are four federal policies we must pass to ensure the health of working women and their families.
The federal government is the nation’s largest employer—and its employees receive no paid family and medical leave. Congress currently has the opportunity to change that by passing the Federal Employees Paid Leave Act (FEPLA), which would bring paid leave to more than 2 million Americans.
On August 26th, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day—a day commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. This victory, it’s important to note, was not realized for all women until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when people of color were explicitly given the right to vote (a right that is still elusive for many today).
The report’s data on men’s usage of paid family leave is another key indicator of the program’s success: nearly a third of those who took bonding leave were men. These findings coincide with the release of our new resource: Your Paid Family Leave Rights: A Guide for Dads and Male Caregivers in New York State.
Advocates in Georgia passed four local nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ individuals, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination law by referendum, and six more states have passed laws prohibiting the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. We were also excited to celebrate our role in passage of several new LGBTQ-inclusive paid leave laws and victories upholding local LGBTQ rights laws.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a powerful article featuring our client in Tennessee, Theresa Gonzales. Theresa, an admissions counselor and the sole breadwinner of her family who was about to become a first-time mother, told her employer, South College, she hoped to take six weeks of unpaid leave then return to her job. Instead, she was fired just days after giving birth because of a discriminatory policy only allowing a maximum of five days off from work. As we told the Times, Theresa’s story is outrageously common.
This weekend, Oregon passed a robust and inclusive paid family & medical leave law, becoming the ninth state to do so nationwide. The law will provide up to 12 weeks of income to those who need to take time off work to recover from a serious health condition, care for a seriously ill loved one, or welcome a new child, with an additional two weeks of leave available for pregnancy-related complications.
Late last year, Allison* reached out to us with questions about maternity leave. She works for an engineering company in NYC and was having trouble figuring out how NY paid family leave and FMLA interacted with her sick time and vacation days. We walked her through what rights she had and how they interacted with her existing time off. Earlier this month, Allison reached out to us again to let us know she was able to take all the leave she needed.
Not only does structurally placing the burden of childcare on women hurt women’s careers and perpetuate the wage gap—policies like these deny men the opportunity to spend precious bonding time with their children early-on, and exclude single dads and LGBTQ dads entirely. We’re fighting to change that, state by state, by passing paid family & medical laws that include all caregivers and their loved ones.
Besides improving the well-being of thousands of working families in CT and ME, it’s laws like these that help pave the way for eventual federal solutions. These victories are both huge steps forward in our continuing effort to ensure that all workers can take time to care for themselves and their families without risking their economic security.