A Paid Leave Proposal to Preempt the Patchwork

Protect us, Congress, from the patchwork of state and local paid leave laws. The HR Policy Association, an organization of chief human resources of 380 “large and influential” companies with 20 million employees worldwide. has proposed that Congress create a “safe harbor” from state and local leave laws for “multi-state employers that choose to voluntarily provide paid leave to their employees.”

The proposal, in a report entitled Workplace 2020: Making the Workplace Work, does not suggest that Congress enact a federal paid leave law to supersede state and local laws. Rather, it proposes that Congress enact a paid leave standard and that any employer which elects to meet that standard would be shielded from liability under state or local leave laws. While the report refers to as a “safe harbor,” it also sounds very much like a preemption law, at least for those employers who choose to meet the standard.  head-2147328_1280

No logical person can dispute that the current patchwork of leave laws is irrational and has been so for years. Concerning paid sick leave laws alone, we have seven states; the District of Columbia; one county; one county less the 20 or so villages, towns and cities that have chosen not to comply with that county’s law; and about thirty municipalities that have enacted PSL laws. My Paid Sick Leave Quarterly for 1Q 2017 describes the state of the PSL patchwork as of March 31.  As I noted in an earlier post, Rube Goldberg could not have devised such a complicated scheme. Add to that the budding patchwork of paid family leave laws. Given the hodgepodge of leave law, the group’s entreaty is quite understandable.

Nor can the suppllication be labeled as coming from the “ivory tower.” Human Resource professionals are on the front lines of this issue, responsible for tracking, complying with and administering these leave laws across the enterprise.  Many larger companies have created leave management departments to deal with the quantity and complexity of leave laws.

The proposal is not anti-leave by any means. It notes appropriately that large companies are and have been in the forefront of providing generous leave benefits to employees. Essentially, it asks that the companies that provide generous paid leave be able to do so uniformly, to all employees, regardless of state or local law.

Since 2012, I have been posting blogs about the challenge for multi-state employers to comply with the growing patchwork of leave laws. The HR Policy report proposes a credible approach to deal with that challenge, one which would benefit employers and employees alike. It deserves serious consideration by members of Congress