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California scores top grade in family-friendly employment laws

The non-profit advocacy organization, National Partnership for Women & Families issued a new report titled "Expecting Better," which graded every state, including D.C., on how well the state and its programs and laws support new parents. California was one of only two states to receive the top score of an A-. No states received an A or A+ grade in the report. According to the non-profit, there are gaps in the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is the only federal employment law that allows new parents to take unpaid time off when a new child arrives.

The United States lacks a comprehensive policy on a national scale to protect working parents when they choose to take time off to adjust to the changes in their families, according to the non-profit. There are very few federal laws that support new parents, thus state laws are critical in providing parents with newborns or newly adopted children some form of job protection to prevent financial difficulties during a time of family transition.

The report claims that 18 states received a failing grade because they fail to provide any benefit or program in support of new families, either before or after birth, foster placement or the adoption of a child. California was the first state to pass a law that allowed for paid family leave. Currently, only 38 percent of U.S. employees have employer paid short-term disability insurance, which assists many pregnant women with pregnancy disability leave. With more females as the primary or co-financial supporter of every family, an unpaid pregnancy disability leave can cause severe financial hardship for many families.

The lack of family-friendly employment laws means that those in the lowest wage jobs are the hardest hit. The U.S. lags behind the 178 other countries that guarantee paid time off to new mothers and 54 countries who guarantee paid time off for new fathers. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, along with FMLA does provide some protection in the 12 weeks of unpaid leave in mandates, which has benefited millions of new parents, however more can be done, according to the non-profit.

The vast majority of Americans believe family-friendly policies are "very important" to the nation's labor laws, and 76 percent of adults think that employers should be "required to provide" paid time off for medical and family leave.

Source: Fox News, "New report card on family leave: Many states fail," Laurie Tarkan, May 31, 2012

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