Last week, California's governor signed a bill that will expand parental leave rights to 2.7 million workers who are otherwise ineligible because they work for a small employer. Before this new legislation, only employees who work for companies with 50 or more employees were guaranteed job protection under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the state California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The new bill provides for up to 12 weeks of job-protected parental leave for workers at companies with 20 to 49 employees.
Two years ago, when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced he was taking paternity leave to spend time with his wife and newborn daughter, it was hailed as a breakthrough for paid family leave. Soon after, a rush of press releases from Twitter, Netflix, Microsoft, IKEA, American Express, Amazon and other well-known companies announced more generous policies. Men, they said, would be encouraged to take parental leave as well.
Illinois recently enacted legislation purportedly giving workers across the state greater flexibility when using their sick leave benefits. The Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2017, is a noble attempt to balance people's family caregiving duties with their job responsibilities, but to many, its protections don't go far enough.
For the first time in national politics, paid family leave has become an election issue. The issue has also gained some traction at the state level. Four states - California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and most recently, New York - have enacted their own legislation. Large employers, particularly those in Silicon Valley, are now offering generous paid parental leave policies.