PRESS RELEASE: District of Columbia Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill Introduced Today Would Make DC First City to Provide Paid Leave For All

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

CONTACT: Rebecca Ennen, 202-499-4073,


District of Columbia Paid Family and Medical Leave Bill Introduced Today Would Make DC First City to Provide Paid Leave For All

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, District of Columbia Councilmembers Grosso (I-At Large) and Silverman (I-At Large), along with several of their colleagues, introduced the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015, which would provide paid family and medical leave for everyone who lives or works in the District. The bill would allow working people to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, an ailing family member, or a personal illness. If the bill is successful, D.C. will be the first city in the nation to provide paid family and medical leave for all.

The DC Paid Family Leave Coalition, a diverse alliance of citizens, local businesses, community institutions, service providers, and advocacy organizations is part of the national movement to #LeadOnLeave for common sense paid leave policies. Eighty percent of U.S. voters agree with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Obama Administration that no one should have to choose between caring for one’s family and earning a living.

“I’ve met countless new parents across the city who work in low-wage jobs and were forced t return to work before they were ready or fully able,” said Sheena Wadhawan, Advocacy Director of the DC Employment Justice Center. “As a new mom myself, that breaks my heart. We need policies that support working families, particularly during the kinds of life challenges we all face from time to time."

"This bill is fundamentally about DC families needing the time and resources to care,” said Joanna Blotner, DC Paid Family Leave Campaign Manager. “I had to leave my own father paralyzed in a hospital bed because that's what my work and finances demanded. We all need to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, and that includes giving our loved ones the best care we can when hard times strike. But I’ve spoken to too many people in our city who have had to make impossible and devastating choices because they had no paid leave. It’s time to make a change.”

“I was born premature, and my mom’s employers didn’t give her enough time to make the frequent NICU hospital visits or subsequent check up appointments,” said Travis Ballie, who works for coalition member NARAL Pro Choice America. “She had to give me up to be raised in Florida by other family members. I often wonder how my life would be different if my mom had the option of paid parental leave.”

The paid family and medical leave program will be financed through a shared system of employer and resident contributions to a citywide paid leave fund. Private sector employers will cover their employees’ contributions, and those who are self-employed, work for the Federal Government, or reverse commute would be guaranteed paid leave coverage through personal contributions. The city would then replace paychecks for those who need to take leave, lessening financial burdens on employers. The paycheck replacements are engineered to be progressive, with DC’s lowest paid people earning a replacement of 100% of their average weekly pay.

“When you’re already struggling to make ends meet, it’s simply not realistic to expect you to live on anything less than full pay. Washington, D.C. would be the first jurisdiction with this innovative and necessary approach to paid leave,” said Blotner. “Family comes first, and that means being able to care for new babies, aging parents, spouses, partners, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, or yourself, when the situation demands, without fear of being thrown into financial crisis.”

“Being a part of a community means that we are all responsible to each other, and healthcare and parental leave should not be reserved only for some,” said Mike Visser, owner of Flying Fish Coffee and Tea, a café in Mount Pleasant. “I don't have the revenue to offer paid parental leave out of pocket to my six employees, but I can do it as a contributor to a citywide pool. And I know my contributions are helping everyone in the city access paid parental leave. It’s a great deal for my business and for the District.

“Leaving a job with maternity and medical benefits to start my own business was a huge risk,” said Sharon Rose Goldtzvik, owner and CEO of Uprise Communications, a boutique consultancy in D.C. “For entrepreneurs and start-ups to flourish, we need to know we’re covered in case we or our families get sick. And it shouldn’t be impossible to start businesses and families at the same time – we’re losing out on talented women in the District who want to add to the vibrancy of our city but are afraid of losing maternity benefits, like I was.”

This legislation gives employers the tools they need to retain talented employees, and helps save money on costs associated with turnover, hiring, training, and attrition. Employers want to do right by the people who work for them, and know that they benefit from more loyalty and higher productivity when their employees know they are valued. By keeping good people in the workforce, D.C. businesses can become more competitive.

If the Council approves the bill, D.C. would join Rhode Island, New Jersey, and California in providing paid family and medical leave to all working families. The DC Paid Family Leave Coalition seeks to enact and fund this urgently needed program during the 2015-2016 Council session.

For more about paid leave policies, visit

The full list of Paid Family Leave Coalition members is available here:

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