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Will paid parental leave one day be required under federal law? P.2

Previously, we began looking at recent events suggesting the possibility that there may eventually be a move to require businesses to provide paid family leave for employees. As we’ve previously mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act does require businesses to provide job-protected leave, but businesses are not required to do paid leave. This is left to states and individual businesses.

Another relatively recent development suggesting a possible move to paid family leave is a piece of guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Administrative guidance, to clarify, is non-binding advice concerning how the public can best remain in compliance with certain laws. The EEOC’s guidance dealt with a variety of federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. 

Although the EEOC’s guidance does not say that employers must provide paid leave, it does say that employers must provide equivalent benefits to both new mothers and new fathers, if benefits are provided beyond the period of leave attributable to physical recovery from childbirth. In other words, if new mothers are offered paid leave beyond that period of time, new fathers must also be provided similar paid leave. Again, the guidance is certainly not saying that the paid leave is required, because it isn’t under federal law, but only that there may be situations where federal law would require paid leave, at least in some measure.

It remains to be seen, of course, how efforts to require paid leave will pan out. In some ways, it may be more effective for advocates of paid leave to work on changing corporate culture and let the market influence those changes. In any case, employees should continue to be aware of their rights under federal and state law when it comes to family and medical leave, and should obtain help defending them when they are infringed. 

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