Did You Know the DC Paid Family Leave Act Won’t Include Federal Employees?

family leave
Photo by PoPville flickr user Lorie Shaull

“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I recently found out that the latest version of the act (proposed by Phil Mendelson) will not provide DC residents who are federal workers with any maternity or paternity leave. I’m not sure if you’re a federal worker, or know much about federal benefits, but federal employees currently do not receive any maternity or paternity leave. I imagine federally-employed residents make up a significant part of the District’s constituency, and would be outraged to learn that they are being excluded from what is supposed to be one of the most progressive pieces of legislation before the DC Council.

My husband spoke to the legal team at the DC Council for about 15 minutes and their argument was basically that federal workers already “have good benefits” despite his protest to the contrary. The DC Council also said that OPM didn’t like the idea, and coordinating with them would be hard. This person then went on to explain that it’s really for people with low incomes, which I also pointed out was not true unless DC also planned to discriminate against wealthy people who are not federal employees. Of course, none of these are valid arguments to discriminate against federal workers. It was a very frustrating conversation and hopefully we can do something about this quickly because as of now, we have been stripped from the bill!”

154 Comment

  • I don’t know if there’s ever been a version of this bill that covered federal employees. I’ve been aware of (and upset by) it since I’ve been aware of the bill. It’s a pretty big omissions, but almost certainly necessary to provide the ambitious benefits it does without clear explanations for how it will be funded. This is one of many reasons I don’t support this move, although I usually support family leave and would love to see the council advance a sensible, sustainable paid leave policy.

    • DC can’t require the federal government to give paid leave, but the original version would have created a fund that would have paid out to federal employees. I guess they took that out.
      Complete BS if feds have to pay a tax for this but are ineligible for the benefit.

      • Kinda like how DC residents pay federal taxes but don’t get representation? Irony. It’s what’s for dinner.

    • The initial version of the bill appeared to function like this: (1) if you are both federally employed and DC resident, you would pay approximately a 1% salary tax (wasn’t totally clear if participation was mandatory, but it appeared to be). (2) These federal-employee-DC-residents would then be eligible to receive benefits under the same program of paid family leave as all other DC residents eligible to participate in the program 16 weeks, paid full salary up to 52k, etc etc.
      This raised a number of issues. One problem would be the ability for double-dipping. Federal employees are allowed to exhaust sick leave when caring themselves, a spouse, or child. There was no mechanism written into the bill to prevent federally employed DC residents from being paid through both federal sick leave and the DC program. The oversight required for this sort of thing would probably be onerous.
      It also sounds like OPM wasn’t willing to play ball – not surprising, as this would likely require OPM to voluntarily give out personal information, possibly including health information, about federal employees to the district gov’t. That’s something OPM certainly can’t do at the mere demand of the DC Council – as everyone else has mentioned, if DC could tell the feds what to do, this whole issue wouldn’t exist in the first place.
      On top of that, I suspect the optics involved in charging federally employed DC residents a special tax were politically problematic. There may be a legal issue when singling out one group for a special tax.

      • I’m not sure how much of a hurdle these issues really are. If there was a private company in DC that offered paid leave, or allowed employees to use sick leave for parenting, would the fund also exclude them for double-dipping? And, there are ways to administer contributions from federal employees that wouldn’t be a tax (such as by making it opt-in).

        I would guess OPM not cooperating is the biggest issue here; and it probably has something to do with OPM wanting to create parity between federal employees in different geographic locations which is a valid concern.

  • Yep – and it would create a nightmare for Feds b/c those that work in DC would get the benefit but those outside wouldn’t.
    Instead, President Obama is working on a separate benefit for all Feds that would be 6 weeks of paid family leave. This would be a huge boost to changing the entire nation’s lack of paid leave.

    • Enter Republicans…

    • It would be a nightmare, but a lot of companies do similar things because of state laws – IE California (and some others) have very specific laws about leave that differ from other states (I believe ‘use or lose’ is illegal there?) – so my company has to track vacation times accruals differently there. It’s a pain (and for the fed would be a nightmare) but there certainly are cases where an employer has to adjust their benefits to abide by laws in different jurisdictions.

      • ETA – obviously my point is irrelevant since DC doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Fed government at all. My bad there 🙂

  • My understanding was that, at least at one point, federal employees would be included in the bill, but would have to make the payments into the “fund” themselves– their agency would not make the payments. Has that changed at this point? I honestly have not looked at it recently.

  • justinbc

    I wouldn’t be “outraged” to learn that, as noted, a particularly progressive bill is being passed with compromises. It’s a step in the right direction, few implemented laws are ever flawless. Just look at marriage equality and marijuana legalization as examples from our generation. Neither were universally done at first but both are getting more and more progressive as the years go on until collectively the legislature (or courts) say “oh yeah, of course this should be a thing”.

  • Pretty sure the district can’t impose any requirements on the federal government so it can’t require the federal government to provide maternity or paternity leave just like it can’t apply its discrimination laws to the federal government.

  • It’s pretty simple. DC gov’t can’t tax the federal government, meaning they’d have no way to charge the employer (the feds) for the payroll tax to fund the new benefit.

    • This is correct. This benefit was to be funded by a tax on employers in DC. Since DC can’t levy a tax on the US government, the federal employees would have been obligated to pay it themselves. As I understand it, that provision has been eliminated.
      OP, sorry, but your outrage is misplaced. Federal workers do not receive the benefit, but neither does their employer contribute to the fund used to pay it. I’m just as happy that DC business, in addition to potentially funding paid leave for their own employees, aren’t also taking on the obligation to pay for paid leave for federal employees (the largest employer in DC, I believe, or at least near the top). Look to the feds for your benefit.

  • I think the person the OP spoke to phrased things poorly (or it has been passed along poorly) – but I’d imagine that DC would not have the jurisdiction to affect a federal employer. Local businesses may need to conform to local municipal employment regulations, but (and I’m no expert) I imagine a municipality can’t place requirements on federal employment.
    (Not to mention the nightmare of discrepancy of all the Feds living in Arlington, etc. who would be livid, or would flock to the district at rates that wouldn’t be sustainable).

    • This is one of the many challenges to the bill, but also the reverse. How do you handle DC residents who work in VA/MD? DC can’t tax those employers, just like they can’t tax the federal government, so those individuals would likely have to self-fund their benefits.

      • Under the original proposal, it appears DC residents who work outside the city would have to pay the entire share themselves.

        Beyond the taxing issue, I don’t see how the District can force out of state employers to grant people time off? Perhaps the District can piggyback off the federal FMLA? But, that is more limited in scope it exempts small businesses and is only for 12-weeks. You could potentially have people paying the whole share for a benefit they might not be able to use.

        • DC already has a more generous medical leave policy than the Feds. DC provides 16 weeks, compared to the feds at 12.


          • The feds dont get 12 weeks leave, they get 12 weeks unpaid leave. Its a big difference

          • Exactly, That is my point.

            The District can’t legally force the federal goverment or NoVa or MD based employers to give their employees the time off. Paid leave policy needs both 1) a funding system and 2) a legal mandate that employees actually be given the time off.

            Hypothetically, a DC resident who works in NoVa could pay taxes to qualify for the paid leave payments, but be told by their employer they are not allowed to have 16-weeks off.

          • @tom – hasn’t that concern been eliminated in the recent draft? the benefit period is 12 weeks, which is coextensive with federal FMLA leave. So a VA employer would have to provide the time off anyway.

          • @dcd: FMLA applies only to establishments with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile area. So lots of small businesses would be exempt. That’s one big issue. But, I’m not on expert on the FMLA. There could be other discrepencies. FMLA exludes many part time employees. Not sure how they are covered under the DC proposals?

          • Unsurprisingly, the bill is not a model of clarity. A covered employee is one who “spends more than 50% of the individual’s work time for a covered employer.” Does that mean more than 50% of the time that they work? Or if someone only has one job, and they work 19 hours a week, are they included? And if someone has cobbled together 3 part time jobs, each at 19 hours a week, are they covered at all? All unclear.

      • When you rule out Feds and residents who are employed outside of DC … is there even anyone left?

  • I’m not a lawyer, but I was under the impression there were legal issues with impossing local laws on federal workplaces. Federal workers have their own unemployment and workers comp systems and I believe are exempt from local labor laws for this reason.

    The original plan would have taxed federal employees for the entire fee, since it can’t impose a tax on the federal goverment directly. Also, I don’t know that legally the District could force the Feds to give the employees the time off.

  • Nicole is correct,
    DC would not have to tell the federal government what to do and would not have to tax them. They would add the maternity leave tax to the other taxes the federal employee already pays for living in the city. It is actually a very simple solution. I’d also add that as of right now, federal employees get zero maternity leave. This is discrimination against federal employees plain and simple because the fact that OPM does not grant federal employees maternity leave is such a sensitive and sore subject. So rather than doing what is right, they just stripped federal employees from the bill for political sensitivities.

    • Even if DC charged the employees for the payroll tax, DC gov’t can’t force the feds to provide this benefit to their employees.

      • The benefit is already provided in the family leave act – it’s just the time off is unpaid leave. This would have provided income during the already available unpaid leave.

    • “They would add the maternity leave tax to the other taxes the federal employee already pays for living in the city.”
      Well, sure. They could do a lot of things. But the decision apparently was made early on to fund this initiative through a tax on covered employers, not a payroll tax (doubtless because people would be much less receptive to the idea is they thought THEY would have to pay for it directly). What you’re suggesting is that DC completely revamp the bill in order to make it possible provide the benefit to federal employees. That’s not realistic.

  • Never knew it to include the Fed and no idea how it could anyway. Sorry looks like you’ll be out of luck but on the contrary you do have better benefits than most of us.

    • “on the contrary you do have better benefits than most of us.” Really? Our benefits certainly aren’t terrible, but they certainly aren’t as good as they were under the pension system for employees who started before (IIRC) 1989 or so.

      • As a fed who then went to a well-known consulting firm in the DC area, believe me the fed benefits are in general much better. For one, almost no jobs I came across provided sick leave. Secondly, in my four years with that consulting firm they cut our PTO, retirement contribution, and then our health insurance. The health insurance they offer now is basically a catastrophic plan. Raises are also few and far between, whereas (at least at my former agency) there was a step increase every year.

        • HaileUnlikely

          It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to talk about how good federal benefits are or aren’t compared to the entire universe of other-than-federal employers. Everybody knows that the big consulting firms basically treat their employees as expendable.

          • Not the consulting firm I worked for. They were known for treating their employees VERY well. For example, when I started they automatically contributed 10% of your salary to retirement, whether you contributed at all. Those were they kind of benefits they had. Of course, there are a ton of reasons that changed.

          • Hell, my former roommate was a consultant whose firm gave her free airline tickets to travel anywhere in the world for personal reasons (nice for me because I had the place to myself whenever she wanted to spend the weekend in Paris; not so nice for her poor dog).

        • Hmm, interesting. In my previous private-sector experience, benefits were actually better than the federal government’s… but that was a long time ago.

          • I generally had much better health insurance in the private sector (much lower out of pocket expenses) but in my industry no one offered a retirement match which is generous at my agency.

          • I Dont Get It

            For us non-Feds, what is a retirement match? Is it like a 401K match?

          • My benefits have always been better in private sector (except for sick leave which has pretty much vanished outside of government employment).

    • I had to leave my newborn at 6 weeks to go back to work because I couldn’t afford to take leave without pay. My mom friends all had generous family paid leave benefits from their private sector jobs (and/or the ability to take disability). I wouldn’t say that I as a fed has better benefits than others in the private sector.

      • Honestly it seems like employer provided benefits are pretty much a race to the bottom. I’ve only been in the private sector in my career and the most generous maternity coverage any employer has offered has been 2 weeks. Yes people can use short term disability assuming their workplace meets the minimum number of employees in a location (which many medium sized employers in DC do not) and you’ve worked the minimum number of days to qualify. But I believe feds are also eligible for STD as it’s a federally mandated program?

      • I work for a public company, we get FMLA which is 12 weeks unpaid and STD which is 6 weeks (8 for c-section). During the unpaid leave time you pay the company for the benefits coverage they they typically kick in.

  • I’m a federal employee and I am about 99% sure all federal sick leave is also eligible for family friendly leave. I don’t see why we need a separate reg for this?

    • But you need to earn it first. And then you have to build it back up again after depleting it. It’s not a reliable backstop.

      • Do feds not understand that parental leave and sick leave are two different things? I work for an association that provided me six weeks of paid parental leave. My wife’s association offered none and required her to use her sick and vacation time. Paid parental leave is a defined benefit—you have it or you don’t—so there’s no reason to conflate it with sick leave or to believe that using up sick leave is an equal benefit.

    • It is. My wife used all her sick leave and even took extra time using Short Term disability. I think she took an extra 4 weeks on short term disability.

      • Page 11 of OPM’s “Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities…” explains how you and Hstreeter are incorrect.

        • Handbook aside that was my reality. My wife used her sick leave and short term disability for the birth of my son.

          • Then kindly offer your statement as a description of your anecdote rather than an assertion about a uniform policy. I am happy your family got a better deal than the families in my agency get, but statements like the one you and many others are making here are ill-informed and contribute to the popular misconception that Feds receive benefits they do not. As you can see from the comments here, lots of ignorant people are using those examples as a way to dismiss federal workers’ calls for this benefit.

          • I don’t know what Family Friendly leave is. My comment was referring to maternity leave. Just noticed that Hstreeter mentioned family friend leave.

          • It doesn’t matter what you call it–there is no benefit that federal employees get for the birth of a child beyond the FMLA, which applies to everyone. No right to use sick leave, annual leave, or whatever family friendly leave or maternity/paternity leave means. It sounds like some bosses may be bending the rules for some employees or some agencies might do things a little differently from what OPM lays out, but it’s not a benefit extended to most federal employees.

    • At my federal agency sick leave is not to be used to care for a healthy infant. There are some limited amounts of sick leave that can be applied towards a short recovery period for a woman who has just given birth, but that’s a totally different category of leave than the family leave in that article. According to coworkers who have used sick leave that way, it required tons of documentation and is not presumed to be an automatic benefit.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Obviously, it depends on the agency. I know of multiple friends who used FMLA to “care for their wife” as a means of getting paternity leave.

      • Agreed. Fed sick leave cannot be used to care for or bond with a healthy child. ONLY annual leave (vacation days) may be used. You CAN use 6/8 weeks of your saved SL for your own personal recovery from childbirth (vaginal 6, csection 8). That is – if you have enough. Otherwise, LWOP.

        I am a fed. I firmly believe Feds will NEVER get mat/pat leave because it is so popular now to hate on federal workers. I see folks back home via facebook ranting about federal employee salaries, etc, having no clue the difference in cost of living in DC area vs midwest.

        I have one child, and used up the 12 weeks I had saved (I had my child older – so I had been working as a fed for 10+ years. If I had been more junior, I never could have saved that much). Since then, I have been unable to save more then 5 days worth due to sick leave for my child, myself, and eldercare issues. I am in an almost-deficit I can never likely earn back due to the need to use leave for normal live events. I hope to have a second child, but will have to go without pay for 12 weeks. That is a problem and a huge stressor on the decision to go forward.

        ANother thing no one talks about is how this lack of maternity leave effects mothers far beyond when they give birth. When our male colleagues go in to retirement, they get to cash out the leave they have saved. Women who have had children have such an unequal amount of saved leave it actually makes a difference in retirement figures. (I do realize many men now use there leave for pat leave too, Im making a generalization here based on very recent history where that was not the norm)

    • In total your sick leave and vacation time usually buys a person of about one month off. and then they have zero leave left over and end up taking leave without pay to spend time with their baby. Every person I know who has had a child has done this. Also, most private sector companies offer equal if not better benefits than what feds are given. Pre 1989 the benefits were very good. Also, having feds receive this benefit doesn’t hurt anyone so why would we discriminate against them? If anything, it would mean a wider tax base for the benefit.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I don’t know about that. Tons of feds have hundreds, if not thousands (long-time feds) of hours of sick leave. I have worked in the government for 5 years, and I could take 13.5 weeks if I used my sick and annual leave (9.5 with just sick).

      • Tsar of Truxton

        I would also add that many people get leave donations for this stuff. I am not arguing against giving the feds maternity/paternity leave, but it is not as bad as people make it out to be if you manage your leave. The people who really struggle are the newer employees who don’t qualify for FMLA or have leave saved up.

        • Great use your 12 weeks – that is what I did. The issue comes after….Then come back to work with none or very little (say 10 days left or so). Which will quickly be gone from Dr appts for you, child needs well checks, or god forbid you have a family issue out of state and need to travel. Oh and better keep your fingers crossed you don’t catch the flu (that killed me, i Had to miss 5 of my 10 days for flu with fever of 104) It becomes a long term problem if not an immediate one.

          Also, PSA: THIS IS WHY PARENTS COME TO WORK DISGUSTING SNOTTY MESSES AND SPREAD IT AROUND. We are usually at the point where we have such little leave left or are negative that we have no choice. I hate when people came to work sick…now that I have a toddler…I get it. Its f’d up, but i get it.

          • I haven’t looked into the details (don’t have kids myself) but at my agency two women in my office have each taken 6 months of sick leave off when they had babies. Obviously they’re burning everything they’ve saved (both have worked for the government for a while). But they didn’t have to do anything special to do it. Now, I agree that maternity/paternity leave should be a benefit that everyone has and that it should be separate from sick leave. But feds aren’t exactly suffering on FMLA-only or coming back to work a week after having a baby, etc. If you have special complications you can apply for even more leave through the voluntary leave distribution bank, which many feds donate too when they have leftover ‘use or lose” annual leave as many old-timers end up having.

    • It’s true that you can use sick leave for having a child, but generally federal workers accrue 4 hours of sick leave per pay period, or 8 hours (one full day) a month. To save up enough sick leave to rival Mendelson’s stripped down plan of 12 weeks of leave, a federal employee would need to work for 5 years and never take a sick day. They would then have zero sick leave after having the baby, making doctor’s appointments, staying home with a sick child, etc. impossible. Also, that federal employee would theoretically have to wait another 5 years to accrue the leave necessary to have a second child (also never taking a sick day during that time period). It’s a misconception that federal workers have a ton of cushy benefits; they need family leave like all other workers in the District, and should not be marginalized.

      • Yes! As a federal govt. employee I was at the mercy of donated leave after I had my baby. This was after I exhausted all my sick and annual leave.

    • I think that applies to everyone, not just federal employees (could be wrong, but that’s how my employer interprets FMLA.) Are you saying you’re opposed to maternity leave if you have the ability to use sick? We are offered annual, personal, sick, and maternity/paternity leave. Most people use the maternity leave first (its not much, we just dropped from 12 weeks to 3, but gained paternity leave), then split sick and annual for the remainder. Kids get sick a lot, so everyone saves a bunch of their sick leave to use for that.

    • This is not correct. You can’t use sick leave to bond with a newborn. You can use it to recover from birth, with a doctor’s sign-off, which I think gets you a max of 6 weeks (maybe more for a C-section), but that’s it.

      Plus, as others point out, you have to earn sick leave and if you use it all up post-birth, then you are SOL if you actually get sick (or have to go to drs appointments with your newborn, or your newborn gets sick).

    • We can use sick leave and our medical leave bank for up to 6 weeks of maternity/paternity leave. Sick leave also counts for sicknesses related to taking care of a close family member. Additionally, sick leave can be used to handle the affairs of a dead relative or attend a funeral know as bereavement leave. This is not something the rest of the federal government gets?

    • Nope , you can only use up to 6 weeks of sick leave. It takes over a year to accumulate all that leave, minus all the prenatal appointments and the leave you need to save to take your child to appointments in the first year. You cannot carry over 6 weeks worth of annul leave (vacation) so that is hard to bank .

    • You can only take it to recover from childbirth (there are specific amounts of time for routine births and non-complicated c-sections). It is what your healthcare provider will certify, but typically around 6-8 weeks. After that, unless you had a complication from childbirth or need to take care of a sick newborn, you need to take annual leave or unpaid FMLA.

    • Point of clarification, it is true that in the past you could not officially use sick leave to bond with a healthy newborn, but about a year ago President Obama directed all the agency heads to allow employees to use up to 6 weeks of sick leave to bond with a healthy newborn Not sure how it is being implemented in all agencies, but there was a change in our policy. You may not have been aware of it unless you specifically asked.

  • I’m outraged that Congress can basically overturn anything my elected representatives in the Council do. I doubt our budget would ever be approved if the any provisions for Feds were included in the final version of this legislation. Given the number of things forced on us/taken from us by our unelected Congressional overlords I’m not really surprised that the Council would try a path of slightly less resistance on this.

  • This bill does not include DC gov employees either. And the response is also “they have a separate package of benefits” however, that package is not even close to being similar of what is being proposed for the private sector. Its absolutely ridiculous and the small and med business is truly going to suffer. The councilmembers supporting this bill refuse to give an answer to why put such a burden on the private sector and not have the same bill for dc gov employees. At the very least the new bill should simply match what dc gov is offering for their employees. Fair is fair

    • DC Government does offer for employees 8 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. It was a godsend at the time I needed it.

      • how can COuncil pass a bill giving better benefits to residents than DC govt employees get? that doesn’t even make sense.

      • I know – my point is how unfair it is for dc govt not to include its own employees on this bill and also why not match to what they are already offering. Asking and pushing for the private sector to be a part of a programm that is substantially “better” than what they currently offer is bull****.

  • Also of note, if the minimum wage ballot initiative is allowed to move forward and get signatures and subsequently on the ballot (and is approved, which I think we all are pretty confident it would be), it does not include DC or Fed employees because ballot initiatives in DC cannot have a fiscal impact on the District government.

  • I’m not sure why this comes as a surprise to the OP; everything I have read, every story I have heard, has been very clear that it does not cover Feds. I am pretty sure this isn’t the only iteration of the bill that does not include Feds, I don’t think any of them have.
    As far as “better” benefits, this is such an “in the eye of the beholder” thing. The only employer I have worked for who has ever provided paid maternity benefit was Children’s Hospital, and they only just started providing this last year. Maternity benefit is generally paid through short term disability, which is often paid for by the employee. In a lot of ways, Feds do have it better. But there’s a lot of ways that private sector and non-profit folks have it better. At the end of the day, if you don’t like the industry you are in, you can switch jobs, and that goes for everyone in every industry.

    • “At the end of the day, if you don’t like the industry you are in, you can switch jobs, and that goes for everyone in every industry.” That’s certainly true, but the problem is that the United States is alone among developed countries in not guaranteeing paid maternity leave. So that affects people in all sorts of jobs.

      • “That’s certainly true, but the problem is that the United States is alone among developed countries in not guaranteeing paid maternity leave. So that affects people in all sorts of jobs.”

        ^THIS! Aside from which industry has better benefits, the US needs to freakin’ implement some paid maternity leave. People up here in Canada are shocked when they hear new mothers can only stay home with their baby for 6 or 12 weeks.

      • I completely agree with this sentiment. I think it’s ridiculous that the US is so far behind it’s Western counterparts on the issue of maternity benefit.
        I didn’t post this initially, but I guess this is as good a time as any; my concern for people not getting paid maternity benefit really is not for Feds, or well-paid non-profit and private sector types, it’s for people in low-wage jobs who have to go back to work because they can’t afford it AND because they may actually lose their jobs. And let’s be real, there is a very big difference between “can’t afford it” at $170k a year or even $70k/year and $17k/year. I’ve been in the latter – imagine having to make the decision to buy diapers next week or be able to spend time with your kid. Luckily for me at the time, at least my position was protected under FMLA. But there are a whole host of people who are not covered by FMLA and who have zero maternity benefit. Perhaps this is why my heart does not bleed for the average GS12+ Fed in this region.

        • you’re assuming an awful lot about what GS level the federal employees who live in DC are. There are many below that level who also deserve to be included and make a lot of the same tough choices that you’ve laid out.

          • My “assumption” comes from OPM which lists the average DC area Fed as being a GS 12 with an average salary of $79K. This is why I used the words “average DC Fed.” I feel a great deal more for lower-level staff, though they are still honestly in a much better situation that your average retail or restaurant worker who may not be eligible for health insurance or FMLA. I’m sorry if you, as a Fed, expect people to automatically feel sorry for you and your “kind” because a bill (not law) has been proposed that will exclude you out of shear fact that the DC Government CANNOT impose such a law on the Federal Government, but it’s not happening.

  • Not true that feds “do not receive any maternity or paternity leave” – they can use sick leave for birth of a new child (which is paid leave) or under the Family and Medical Leave Act can opt to take unpaid time off for up to 12 weeks. And the notion that the DC council should get to set Federal employment policies by asserting a leave benefit for Federal workers is absurd, unless the city just wants to provide a voluntary scheme/fund for its residents as described by Nicole.

    • You’re wrong. There’s no promise that Feds can use sick leave to care for a healthy infant, although it appears agency practice varies widely. See page 11 of OPM’s “Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities…”

    • Not true that feds “do not receive any maternity or paternity leave” – they can use sick leave for birth of a new child (which is paid leave) or under the Family and Medical Leave Act can opt to take unpaid time off for up to 12 weeks


      • they can only use up to 6 weeks of leave. And if you have to put your kid in day care, using up all your leave is really unwise because daycare do not allow you to bring in babies when they have a runny nose. FML is unpaid. Day care costs about 30% of the average federal workers salary. Deciding to not get paid before pouring out your income for childcare (if you can get in) is really difficult.

        DC is one of the most expensive cities to raise a family in, any people in DC work for the federal government. I know the federal government does have good benefits but I understand DC residents outrage at being left out of a bill that they are being taxed on

        • I have no issue with the bill. We have had two kids and had to pay day care as you described. My only comment was really geared toward the fact that at least at my wife’s agency she was allowed to use sick leave for recovery. After that recovery time, we did pay for daycare for both of our kids. Anything that can ease the burden of all that, I am all for.

          • But the bill won’t easy the burden for a lot of DC residents. A lot of DC tax payers and home owners (who pay the taxes for the schools) are left out. I completely understand why federal employees are annoyed. I think DC should do back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that serves all its residents.

        • Once again, federal employees are not being taxed on the bill. I understand being upset that it doesn’t apply to you, but you can’t argue that you should get the benefit because you’re paying for it. You aren’t.

          • It coming from a tax on employers so technically no resident is paying for it directly. However if those costs are past on to consumers then everyone is paying for it

    • Sick leave is not parental leave.

  • Frankly I just write it off it yet another thing I pay taxes for in DC that I will not see a personal benefit from.

    In case it hasn’t already been addressed in the comments, I was able to take accrued sick leave for 2 weeks of paternity leave when my daughter was born.

    • “An employee caring for a family member who is a birth mother is entitled to use sick leave for the mother’s prenatal care, any period of incapacity due to her pregnancy—including severe morning sickness or medically prescribed bed rest—childbirth, or for the mother’s recovery from childbirth. As mentioned above, most health care providers certify that the recovery period is about 6-8 weeks.”

      I treated this statement in the handbook as what I needed to justify using sick leave, in that I truly was caring my both my wife and daughter in those first weeks.

      • That’s awesome that worked for you. At my agency the standard practice is that once no one is in the hospital it’s very tough to use sick leave.

        • It’s unfortunate because frankly it really just depends on whether you have a stickler authorizing official, I think – I do also feel like the statement I used as justification only covers the paternity leave piece. Perhaps I got off easy…

    • I did the same. 2 weeks the most that they allowed me to use.

    • Good news – you won’t be paying for it.

      • Neither will the people who use it. Employers will be taxes, meaning businesses. If this causes price increases in apartment rentals, groceries, ect then feds can be mad as hell.

        • +1

          Now I get to pay $15 for a house salad at a restaurant instead of $13.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I understand that this is merely an example, however, the tax on employers is proportional to salaries and is <1% for everybody in the service industry salary range except the owners (not managers, owners), thus if anybody tries to hike the price of your stuff by anything like 10% in response to this, that is a sign that they are gouging their customers and would find another excuse to do so if this did not give them one.

  • This is a silly complaint. The feds can use sick leave or annual leave for pregnancy leave. This leave accrues at a pretty high rate and the vast majority of people should have at least a combined 6 weeks of leave after three years. Some will have much more.

    • Um, yes, that might be true if it’s your first child and you don’t go on vacations.

      • or ever actually get sick, need surgery, etc.

        • Or have a death in the family. When my mother unexpectedly passed away in the spring of 2009, I used all the sick and annual leave I had accrued over the past two years. I was out for a little around three weeks. Two years later, I again depleted my sick leave with ankle reconstruction surgery and the necessary physical therapy afterwards. Fortunately, I was not planning a family at the time, but the option of not having paid leave if I had been would have been terrible. And the federal government does not even allow federal workers the option of buying into short term disability which would have been nice for my surgery and recovery.

    • Depleting your sick leave for childbirth children causes a lot of problems for women in later in life who have no reserves when things like cancer strikes .

    • This is also true for private sector jobs. Do you support companies eliminated maternity leave because they already offer paid vacation?

      • No, I am simply pointing out that the Federal workers do not have maternity leave and they do not have extra Beninese that most private sector white color workers. Excluding feds and or suggesting that they don’t need parental leave is wrong. I think that all workers in the Us should have access to maternity leave and I sympathies with federal workers who are DC residents who have been left out of this.

  • My biggest issue with this is that it is unclear how many DC residents benefit from this act. I hate to see DC’s employers burdened by this act just to see a lot of the benefits going to Maryland and/or Virginia. I also find that frustrating when it comes to the 15 dollar minimum wage talk.


    • Great point!

    • This is both accurate and misguided. It’s true that DC residents who work outside of DC are not eligible for benefits, and MD/VA residents who work in DC are. But, that’s the equitable result. For whatever reason, the drafters of this bill focused on DC employers as the funding source. DC employers have to pay a percentage of covered employees’ salaries to fund this endeavor, and covered employees include employees who live in VA or MD. It’s perfectly reasonable to provide the benefit to the employees of the employers who are paying for it, and to NOT provide the benefit to people who, though they live in DC, work elsewhere and consequently don’t provide any contribution to the fund.
      If DC really wanted to provide this benefit to all DC residents, regardless of where they work, they could have funded it through general revenues, or a payroll tax. But they chose not to, and benefit eligibility follows from the funding mechanism.

      • To clarify, it could have been funded by either general revenues, income tax, or an employee-side payroll tax. It isn’t.

      • DCD, I think you missed my point. I am not upset at DC residents who work outside of DC not receiving the benefit. I’m disturbed by the burden it places on DC companies for the benefit other states. While there are a decent amount of people doing a reverse commute from DC to Maryland or Virginia. Most commuters are are crossing state/district lines for work do so to work in DC.

        I just want to make sure the social and economic impact if we are placing this burden on our companies goes to DC residents.

        This is another misguided social experiment that injures DC, while disproportionately helping the citizens of our neighboring states.

        • I did misunderstand your point (or mistakenly lumped you with the raft of posters who don’t understand the bill). You raise a good point – the bill makes DC businesses less competitive, while benefiting many residents of other states (raises hand). But, unless the Council is comfortable funding the benefit through general revenues, I don’t think that can change. This is basically a roundabout way of forcing DC employers to pay family leave benefits to their employees. So if you don’t work for a DC company, you don’t get the benefit.

          • Agreed. I think this is another case the DC government could do a lot better. And a great example of why they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If they did want to provide a benefit like this they should provide a tax credit for DC residents to purchase their own short-term disability insurance. Short-term disability at least with my employer covers maternity leave too. This would guarantee that the beneficiaries paid taxes to the city or were at least a resident of DC.

      • Yeah, but I think a lot of people are missing is that this bill needs 2 pieces:
        1) A funding piece- a tax to compensate people for lost income
        2) A legal piece- a law to mandate employers must give their employees the time off to actually untilize this benefit.

        The District could set up a fund to compensate those who work in VA/MD. But, DC govt can’t mandate that a non-DC employers actually give them the time off. You would have lots of DC based residents paying for a benefit their employer won’t let them use. FMLA covered is narrower than what is being proposed here.

  • OMG everyone, the original proposal never tried to tax the federal government, because yes, that’s illegal. It did set up a fund that federal workers living in DC could pay into, and then get paid leave through that. If they took that out, this bill is bullshit.

    Also, feds DO NOT get paid family leave. Sick and annual leave are not paid family leave, they are different. Plus, as others have mentioned, you cannot use sick leave to care for a healthy infant. Not to mention you have to hoard those hours ahead of time…

  • Several people are getting federal leave wrong (at least the official version)

    Women may use 6 weeks of sick leave for a vaginal birth (8 for caesarean). They may not use additional sick leave, even if they have it, for taking time off to care for their infant. This leave is for their own medical recovery as established by their physician. If they do not have such leave they can theoretically ask for advanced leave.

    They may use vacation leave, or unpaid leave, for the remaining 4 or 6 weeks of FMLA allotted to them

    Of course, in practice, supervisors may unofficially allow longer leave times (or discourage even 12 weeks), depending on circumstances.

    • The lengths of time you are listed are maximums, not standards practice and not a promise that any federal employee is granted anything.

    • As I understand it (per my agency’s summary of the OPM guidelines), I can take 6 weeks sick leave to recover from a vaginal birth (8 weeks for c-section). I’ll fortunately have more than 6 weeks accrued by the time I give birth, and agencies are supposed to allow you to advance sick leave if you don’t have enough, so at least 6 weeks would be paid. Then, I can take 12 weeks FMLA for bonding. So, up to 18 weeks total. How much is paid depends on how much AL I’ll have stored up.

      Of course, being able to take 18 weeks and being able to afford to take 18 weeks is a whole different story. Also, women who use their 6 weeks of sick leave (accrued or advanced) are at a disadvantage when it comes to calculating retirement since (usually) men are able to accrue significantly more over their careers and use those days to increase their time in service.

      • FML is unpaid , I hate when people use it in a total for maternity leave. Its basically leave without pay. Which also subtracts from your retirement date, and your 401k contributions. I also hate how they called any time after 6 weeks of leave after birth “bonding:” Most new mothers after 6 weeks are sleeping less then 6 hours a night, and babies immune systems are so fragile I cant image having to put on in a day care center.

  • Like most people in the U.S., federal workers are at the mercy of their employer (in this case the agency) in terms of actual maternity/paternity leave policy as it seems that policy differs by federal agency. Mine allows you to take 6-8 weeks of sick leave for recovery from labor and delivery with a doctor’s note saying how much leave you will need (this assumes you’ve accrued that much leave, but if you haven’t you can take advance leave which you then have to pay back before you earn new sick leave). Any additional maternity leave is either from annual leave or LWOP (assuming you can afford not to work). I don’t think we have access to short term disability leave–its not in the agency maternity/paternity leave policy statement and I’ve never heard of anyone using it. Someone should put together a guide comparing the leave offered by each agency.

  • I don’t really understand why there is such animosity towards the DC-based federal work force in this comment section. A ton of DC residents work for the federal government — they are a huge part of our DC community, and their decision to make DC (rather than VA or MD) their home has contributed to how much our city has thrived over the past decade or so.

    The objection to advocating for federal workers — who are local neighbors, friends, restaurant patrons — seems arbitrary; by this logic, everyone is fine with a lawyer making 300k or so to get parental leave on the government’s dime, but a GS-10 working for DoD or Homeland Security has to take all their vacation and sick leave because of the misconception that “feds get enough as it is”??

    • THank you!

    • If you read the bill and understand the funding mechanism, you’ll see it makes perfect sense to exclude federal workers (and many other DC residents). It has nothing to do (despite many of the comments above) with how good, or not good, federal benefits are.
      I will say, though, that many of the federal workers posting here are being a little myopic when complaining about their benefits. No, there is no paid parental leave for feds, and some (certainly not all) private employers provide it (though as Anonamom pointed out above, hourly workers likely get nothing, and are the hardest hit of all). But that only one component of benefits, and one that is infrequently used. As a package, fed benefits are pretty good. Unless things have drastically changed, the federal health insurance plans are subsidized much more than many private plans (and that’s a cost that comes each month). And many private employers don’t match 401k contributions at all, while I believe the fed does. Plus, what about all those extra days you get off when rain is predicted?!?! (I kid, I kid!)

    • I don’t think it’s hostility. I just don’t think anything of this nature covering the federal workforce coming out the DC Council will ever see the light of day. Congress will slap us silly.

      The Council is being pragmatic IMO. Paternity coverage is a glaring problem for basically all workers in this country. I’m happy to see the Council trying to address the problem for the subset of employees in DC that it can. They will never get something implemented with Feds in it, so it’s either some DC residents or none IMO. I’m childless and plan to remain that way, so this doesn’t affect me directly, but I think it’s a small step in the right direction.

      • I personally don’t understand the outrage. I’m sure DC would love to impose this on the Feds if for no other reason than to impose something on the Feds. However, they can’t. It all seems misdirected to me; the Feds should be looking at their employer and asking them to change their policies.

  • I actually think that Federal Workers would be happy to know that McCullogh v Maryland says states (or DC) can’t dictate law to the feds… Federal Workers aren’t that uninformed

  • Most federal employees get five weeks of paid leave per year, plus 2.5 weeks of sick leave. I think that is a very generous leave policy, so I can understand not extending the policy to federal employees in DC (and I am a federal employee).

    • It’s not accurate to say that most feds get five weeks of annual leave per year.
      Employees in their first 3 years earn 13 days of annual leave per year. (That sure as hell didn’t seem very generous when I came to the federal government from a job where I had five weeks of vacation a year.)
      Employees between 3-15 years earn 19 days of annual leave (a little under four weeks) per year. Those who’ve reached the 15-year mark get 26 days (a little over five weeks) a year.
      All feds earn 13 days of sick leave a year.

      • Many private companies do not even have sick leave. I am a fed and I think (nay, I KNOW) our leave policy is very generous. 3 years in and you get 5 weeks a year, plus 2.5 weeks of sick leave.

        That’s not to say that I think paid family leave is a bad idea, but feds are offered some flexibility provided their agencies have not adopted hardline policies.

        Like I said earlier in the comments, it really comes down to whether the person who approves your time takes a hardline interpretation of the leave guidelines and willingly tells their pregnant (or expectant father) that they need to use unpaid FMLA.

        And I think that just pretty much makes you someone who won’t have your employees going the extra mile on your behalf because you wouldn’t do it for them. As many feds have attested, they have been afforded the ability to use sick leave.

        • Do the private companies you mention that don’t offer sick leave instead lump sick and annual leave together. I worked for a private law firm before I came to the federal government, and I don’t recall having “sick leave” because I had a minimum billable hour requirement that had to be met regardless of how much time I took off for vacation or illness. But I do recall them having a very generous maternity leave package. As do most law firms for their attorneys. Not sure what they provide for support staff.

          • IMO, lumping sick and annual leave together is a bad idea. As I’ve said before on PoPville, it encourages people to come into work when they’re sick. And although having a shared bank of leave is great if you’re a healthy person and have few doctor’s appointments, it’s not so great if you’re not.
            Sure, there’s some abuse of sick leave… but I think it’s better to have separate leave banks and some small degree of abuse than to have a shared leave bank and people dragging themselves to the office because one sick day equals one less vacation day.

          • Yes, that’s what companies usually do (lump them together). I think a standard is somewhere between 13-20 days total, depending on the company and time served.

    • Fair enough if we are comparing feds to low wager workers. However this bill would gie up to 1,000 a week to K street Lawyers and lobbyist (who generally have better benefit packages then feds) whlist increaseing prices for coffee, groceries , ect by taxing employers

  • Wait a minute……I will be taking a 1% pay cut so other people (many much richer than me) can stay home with their new child. Not sure I am happy about that.

    • *facepalm* Just because something benefits other people and not you does not make it a bad thing.
      And of the group of people who will benefit from this, I suspect people “much richer than me” will be in the minority.

  • Whew! So glad I’ve decided that I don’t want kids 😀

  • This isn’t quite accurate.

    DC can’t compel the federal government to do anything or provide any benefits to employers who live in DC. However, the original draft of the bill would have allowed federal employees living in the District to “opt-in” and have the tax withheld. Non-federal employees who work outside DC but live within would have the same “opt-in.” As do all workers from outside DC who work inside the city.

    The tax is about 1 cent per employee per paycheck, whether you’re paying it yourself or your employer is.

    Please don’t spread misinformation as though it’s fact. It’s not.

    • i think they removed the opt in provision for feds and residents who work out of state. Meaning DC taxzes will help pay MD and VA residents who work in Dc over their own residents.

      • No, DC employers will pay to cover their employees, whether they reside in DC, VA or MD. As I said above, this is basically a requirement on DC employers to provide paid family leave, using the fund as a clearinghouse for benefits as opposed to self-funding.

  • Being a DC government employee, I can understand that the leave is only for DC government employees and not federal government employees because the leave is being paid by DC government and not the federal government.

  • Thanks for posting this. It is an outrage.

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