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By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
WASHINGTON – In a new study released by the National Partnership for Women & Families, Rhode Island scored a “B” for its family and medical leave policies and accommodations for pregnant workers, landing the Ocean State among the states with the best protections for working parents nationwide.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance law went into effect. The law amended the state’s existing Temporary Disability Insurance program to allow employees to collect short-term disability benefits for up to four weeks to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, or to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child.
Rhode Island, California and New Jersey are the only states requiring companies to offer parental and family leave paid out of a pool of employee paycheck contributions. In the first four months of Rhode Island’s paid family leave program, more than 650 claims have been approved to allow new parents to use paid leave while caring for a new child, the National Partnership study said.
In addition, Rhode Island’s existing Parental and Family Medical Leave Act requires companies that employ 50 or more workers to provide 13 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, more than is required under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.
Rhode Island law requires employers to make “reasonable efforts” to provide a place other than a bathroom for nursing employees to express breast milk at work. However, unlike in most other states with such laws, Rhode Island but does not require employers to provide “reasonable break time” for nursing employees.
Three other states – Illinois, Oregon and Washington – also received a grade of “B” in the study, while Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia received a “B+” in recognition of their efforts to improve worker access to paid sick days and paid medical and family leave. Massachusetts scored a “C.”
California scored the highest of any state with its “A-” awarded for the state’s first-in-nation paid family leave law, but no state scored an “A” or higher. Seventeen states in the U.S. earned an “F” for offering no benefits or programs to help families with new children beyond what is required by federal law.
“Too often, expecting mothers who need but are not provided reasonable accommodations at work are forced to take unpaid leave, quit or jeopardize the health of their pregnancies,” the report stated. “The United States distinguishes itself unfavorably from much of the rest of the world by failing to provide adequate supports and protections for parents and children.”
The National Partnership for Women & Families released the study, titled “Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents,” as President Barack Obama organized a White House summit on working families to initiate a national dialogue on improving workplace policies for new and expectant parents.
Currently, three national laws address pregnancy discrimination, provide unpaid job-protected family and medical leave, and protect nursing mothers’ rights at work, but no national policies guarantee paid family or medical leave, paid sick days and other support, the organization said.
“New mothers and fathers should not have to experience financial hardship at what should be one of the happiest times of their lives,” the National Partnership wrote in a release of the study. “And a growing body of evidence shows that ensuring new parents and all workers have access to family-friendly policies like paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave has widespread benefits for the health and economic security of families and the strength of businesses and the economy.”
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that works to promote fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to affordable health care, and policies that help parents meet the dual demands of work and family.