The United States falls behind other countries in terms of federal protection and support for working parents. Individual states can implement policies to make it easier to be both a parent and an employee, but a report from the National Partnership for Women and Families shows that states don't rank too high, either.
The organization looked at several factors, including policies for job protection in the event of medical or family leave, paid sick days and pregnancy accommodations, according to the Huffington Post. The states were awarded points based on what protections employees in both the private and public sector received. The states were then given a letter grade.
No state received an A, but California ranked highest with an A-. Eleven states received B grades, eight got Cs, 14 received Ds, and 17 got Fs.
All of the states that received an F scored 0 points, meaning that they offer no protections to working parents beyond what the federal government mandates. These states are Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. However, a few states, such as Delaware and Nevada, do allow employees to use their personal sick time to care for children or family members.
Arizona received a negative mention, as the state recently repealed a law that had granted all pregnant employees 180 days of pregnancy-disability leave.
The best-ranked states had generous policies of paid sick leave and accommodations for new mothers. Here are the top five states:
1. California, 130 points, A-
The state was the first in the country to set up a Paid Family Leave program, which entitles all workers who contribute to the State Disability Insurance fund to six weeks of family leave a year, during which they receive partial pay. Among other safeguards, women have job security for up to four months if they take time off for a pregnancy-related disability. Half of the allotted sick leave of an employee can be used to care for a sick child or partner. Nursing mothers are entitled sufficient break time and are protected from discrimination in the workplace.
2. Connecticut, 120 points, B+
In 2012, Connecticut became the first state to mandate a paid sick leave policy for service workers, which also allows employees to take time off to help a sick child or spouse. Some companies offer up to 16 weeks of parental leave, an extension of the 12 weeks mandated by the Family and Medical Leave Act. The state also has protections for pregnant women, including a mandate that companies find a temporary position for pregnant employee if her permanent job could cause her harm. However, unlike many other states, employers in Connecticut don't have to provide extra break time for nursing mothers.
3. Hawaii, 110 points, B+
Hawaii has a Temporary Disability Insurance law that allows employees that have worked for their company for at least 14 weeks to receive partial wage replacement for sick leave, including pregnancy-related leave. Workers can use up to 10 days of their paid sick leave to care for a new baby or sick family member. The state doesn't mandate a set amount of time employers need to offer for pregnancy disability leave, just requires employers provide a "reasonable period of time."
4. New Jersey, 100 points, B+
Employees in New Jersey pay into their company's TDI program, which also ensures partial wage replacement. There is also a paid family leave law in New Jersey that offers more protections than the federal law, however women who leave work for pregnancy-related reasons are not guaranteed job security. Pregnant women can ask their employers for special accommodations with a recommend from their doctors.
5. Washington, DC, 95 points, B+
Although not technically a state, the District of Columbia still outranks nearly every state in the country. Women who need to take a pregnancy-related leave are entitled to 16 weeks that can be spread over two years "in addition to any period of leave taken to care for a new child," according to the mandate. This year, the district's paid sick leave law was expanded, giving the benefit to more workers. The definition of "family" is also loose, including caring for a "committed partner" as a reason to use family leave.
ARTICLE ENDNOTE: Emily Hales covers issues facing families in the United States. She is a communications major at Brigham Young University.