States and cities often have stronger protections than federal law. This guide is here to provide you information about federal, state, and local laws that may help you on the job, and when you need time off.
Around the country we are working to pass laws in cities and states to strengthen protections for working parents. But passing laws is only the start. Our goal is that you feel empowered to know your rights and use these laws to help you thrive in the workplace. That’s why we made this step-by-step guide to walk you through your rights in the state where you live. Knowledge is power.
While we have done our best to track down as many state and local laws that benefit private sector pregnant workers and caregivers as possible, this is not an exhaustive list of every single law that might be able to help you. In addition, we have “translated” these laws into plain language as much as possible, so we advise you to refer back to the statutes themselves (we’ve provided links) to understand their full scope and relevance to you. We suggest you use this information as a jumping-off point for your research or a discussion with a lawyer who can truly walk you through your rights. We advise you to consult an attorney if you think your rights have been affected.
Also, you should know that most laws have something called a “statute of limitations,” which means that you have to take action within a certain period of time. We did not include the statute of limitations for each law, so be sure to consult with a lawyer about the timing in your specific circumstance. Otherwise you could be out of luck. Generally speaking, it’s better to get moving sooner rather than later when it comes to legal issues.
Key to the State-by-State Guide
We have included the laws that we thought would be most helpful to breastfeeding workers, such as laws that require employers to provide break time for pumping or laws that grant women a right to breastfeed in public. We didn’t bother including laws that don’t count breastfeeding as indecent exposure (talk about the Stone Age!) and other more obscure laws, such as those excusing breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.1
1 For comprehensive breastfeeding laws, check out the National Council of State Legislatures: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx.
Temporary Disability Insurance
Temporary disability insurance (TDI) allows women who are disabled by pregnancy or childbirth to get some wage replacement since they can’t work. Only five lucky states have this program — read on to find out which ones they are.
Paid Family Leave
Paid family leave (also known as family leave insurance) laws allow workers to use the state’s temporary disability insurance fund to receive wage replacement while caring for certain family members, such as a newborn child or ill spouse. Only three states have this.
Unpaid Family Leave
As you’ll read in our guide, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a nationwide law that gives some workers a right to unpaid leave for illness or caregiving. Unpaid family leave means that a state goes above and beyond the FMLA in some way, such as by covering more workers or providing more time off.
Paid Sick Days
Some localities and three (soon four) states guarantee certain workers time off when they or a family member are sick or need preventative care, like a check-up. This section focuses on those laws.
In this section we have included laws that help pregnant women—they might let you transfer to a less hazardous position or prohibit pregnancy discrimination. Of course, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also protects against pregnancy discrimination, but it can sometimes be helpful to use state and federal laws together—or the state law might apply where the federal doesn’t because the employer is so small.
Here we have included prominent cities and counties (and occasionally entire states) that protect parents or caregivers from discrimination.2
2 We didn’t include every locality; take a look here for more information: worklifelaw.org/pubs/LocalFRDLawsDetail.html.
Parental Involvement in Children’s Education
Some states let parents take time off to attend school events, such as parent–teacher conferences or other activities. We included those laws and similar ones in this section.
Kincare is a term that means caring for a family member. Kincare laws, which are included in this section, mean that workers are allowed to use their own sick days to care for certain family members.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t include benefits that public-sector workers get in various states on this webpage, since these laws are extremely complicated and apply differently to different workers. Check with your employee handbooks, human resources, and union representatives to learn about your rights.3
3 This resource includes many public-sector benefits: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/expecting-better-2016.pdf
The Equal Pay Act is a federal law, but often states have a statewide equivalent (sometimes with stronger protections) that guarantees equal pay for equal work between men and women. We didn’t include equal pay laws in this webpage, but states with equal pay laws did earn this icon on their page. The hard copy of Babygate includes equal pay laws.4
4 This resource from the National Conference of State Legislatures features every state’s equal pay laws: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/labor/equal-pay-laws.aspx.
In some states, workers can get unemployment insurance even if they quit their job, if they had to leave because of pregnancy or caregiving responsibilities. Such rules are outlined in this section.5
5 For more information on how unemployment insurance works for working parents, visit http://nelp.3cdn.net/ebba1e75e059fc749d_0um6idptk.pdf. Page 59 of this report includes more updated information: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/DocServer/Expecting_ Better_Report.pdf?docID=10301
This is just for anything else that we thought pregnant workers and parents would like to know about. States get bonus points for helping out working families in creative ways.