New bill before Congress would offer paid leave to many more Americans

By Dee Thompson | Dec 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — A new bill before Congress could give many more employees across the United States paid leave, replacing a patchwork of state laws on paid employee leave. 

The bill, known as the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (HR 4219) was proposed in October.

"Currently, there is no national paid leave requirement in place," Meredith-Anne Berger, an attorney at Seyfarth Shaw’s New York office, told the Cook County Record. "The only federal law providing job-protected leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act, but that is unpaid leave. If this legislation were to pass, many more Americans could be eligible for paid leave. Employers who offer a plan in accordance with this statute would be able to credit up to six paid holidays toward meeting the minimum required amounts of leave.”

Paid leave was a campaign promise of President Donald Trump, and has been "a key issue of the Trump administration that has wide appeal," Berger said. 

"This proposal is likely the first of many iterations of national leave legislation [that] we will see in the coming years," she said.

But some employers may not welcome this law if it passes, though it could make it easier for multi-state employers to have one single policy at all of their offices. 

“The bill’s sponsors are representatives from California, New York and Washington state - all states that currently have paid leave legislation in place," she said. "Many cities and localities - even in 'red' states - are proposing paid leave laws that are unfriendly to employers and are difficult to comply with. This bill proposes a solution which would unify paid leave requirements such that multi-state employers could establish a uniform policy for all employees and would ease administration of an increasingly complex leave framework.”

The bill also might make some things easier for small employers if it becomes a law, according to Berger. 

“This bill provides a voluntary option for employers to offer flexible workplace arrangements, so employers who do not wish to provide these options would not be required to do so," Berger said. "However, if implemented as proposed, this bill would likely help small employers as it is a more streamlined approach to providing leave to employees, especially in those cities and states with existing leave laws that may at times conflict.”

Berger, however, feels the bill will not be passed any time soon, as Congress has been focused in 2017 on healthcare and taxes. 

"In its current form, the bill may also face significant opposition from politicians and interest groups on both sides of the aisle, and employers may also have to contend with issues relating to its overlap with various other federal employment laws, including wage and hour and employee benefits, as well as the FMLA [ Family and Medical Leave Act]," she said. 

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Seyfarth Shaw, LLP U.S. Congress

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