While much of the post-election attention has been focused on the presidential race, there has been little said about what looks to be a historic victory for working Coloradans, who have chosen to join eight other states, including New York, and Washington D.C. in providing paid family leave for new parents as well as those dealing with a family emergency. This is the first paid family leave law to be won through a ballot initiative, rather than implemented by elected officials.
In a landslide victory Proposition 118 establishes 12 weeks, and under some circumstances 16 weeks, of paid leave. The maximum amount is $1,100 per week and is set to be funded by a payroll tax split 50/50 between workers and employers. Additionally, Proposition 118 bars employers from taking retaliatory actions against workers who request or use paid leave.
While the main focus of the proposition was on paid leave for new or expecting parents, the rules also stipulate that caring for a family member or recovering from one’s own serious health condition, caring for an adopted or foster child, constitutes coverage under the law, as does one’s own or a family member’s entry into active military duty. Finally, those who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking qualify for coverage.
The amount of money provided is based on a sliding scale pegged to the applicant’s wages, with those earning $500/week likely to see 90% of their earnings covered, while those making $3000/per week getting roughly 37% of their weekly wage.
While this is great news, there is still a significant uphill battle to universalize paid family leave for everyone living in the United States. Currently, the U.S. remains the only OECD country and one of only eight countries in the world without a federal-level paid leave policy. As the coronavirus pandemic has laid bare, this is a national shame which will require significant attention in the coming months and years, hopefully, in concert with efforts to universalize childcare.