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House Approves Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees

On June 19, the House approved, 278-146, H.R. 5781, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, after defeating, 206-220, a motion to recommit by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that would have instructed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to exclude from eligibility for paid parental leave fathers who are “not in compliance with a court ordered child support arrangement.” The measure was approved by the committee on April 16 (see The Source, 4/18/08).

Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the bill would allow federal employees to be paid for four of the twelve weeks of parental leave to which they are entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (P.L. 103-3). The legislation also would permit federal employees to use up to eight weeks of accrued sick leave for parental leave.

During consideration of the bill, the House approved, 422-0, an amendment by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) to eliminate a provision that would have required the General Accountability Office (GAO) to study the feasibility and desirability of providing a wage replacement insurance benefit during absences related to serious health conditions. The amendment also would specify that the paid parental leave benefits available to GAO and Library of Congress employees under the bill would not apply to births or placements that occur within six months of the bill’s enactment.

Rep. Maloney said, “This bill is very important to me because I very painfully remember when I was pregnant with my first child; I was terrified of being fired. I was working for the New York State legislature, and I called the personnel office to inquire about their parental leave policy. I was told, ‘Leave policy? There is none, women just leave.’ I said, ‘Well, I intend to come back to work because I have to work. What is your leave policy?’ They said, ‘We have none. Possibly you could apply for disability.’ I told her that the birth of a child is not a disability; it is a joyous event. I would say…that having a child is not a perk. It is important. It is important to the lives of the parents; it is important to…our country. We should turn our family values rhetoric into a reality of providing some support to working men and women in the federal government.”

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) said, “I would…ask that federal workers take note of what we do here today. We are not talking about making sure that someone who has a child or adopts a child has the opportunity to take the time off for bonding. We already ensure 12 weeks of that and have for [more than a] decade.” Rep. Issa continued, “[L]et’s look at this from a practical standpoint. You are running a federal department. You have somebody who you need, and every single year, as often happens, they take on a new foster child that they keep for three to five years and they have, let’s say, three foster children. That means that individual will be gone on paid leave over and above their vacation, over and above their 13 days of sick leave a year, they are going to be gone four weeks every year, conceivably for a full 20 years. So, by having not just the birth [of a child]…we can conceivably go so far beyond the $850 million [in Congressional Budget Office] scoring, we could easily end up in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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