Governor Lamont Signs Historic Law Enacting Family and Medical Leave in Connecticut

This article was published on: 06/27/19 6:40 PM by Mike Minarsky

(HARTFORD, CT) – Joined by lawmakers, small business owners, and working families, Governor Ned Lamont today held a bill signing ceremony to sign a law that will enact a paid family and medical leave program in Connecticut. When the program begins on January 1, 2022, workers in Connecticut will gain access to the necessary benefits that will allow them to take time off work to care for their own health, a newborn child, or a sick family member.

“Supporting the working families of our state will strengthen our economic footing and make Connecticut a stronger place to live, work, and do business,” Governor Lamont said. “Adopting this program means that workers who need to take time off for a new baby or recover from illness are not punished financially, and businesses do not risk losing good workers during those emergencies. Regardless of whether a public or private entity administers this program, there will be no profit motive to deny any applicant. We know working families are the backbone of our state. If they are not financially stable, Connecticut will never be.”

While most other modern countries across the world have some type of paid family and medical leave program, the United States does not. Only 13 percent of private sector Workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, and 25 percent of U.S. mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth. Connecticut joins California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington as states with paid family and medical leave programs.

Governor Lamont signing FMLA bill Click to enlarge

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, “Paid family medical leave is something the governor and I proudly ran on because we know that enacting this program will lift up thousands of families across our state. Connecticut workers and their families – newborn babies, our eldest citizens, and everyone in between – will benefit greatly from this policy as it gives workers the opportunity to face some of life’s most difficult challenges without the added burden of having to choose between earning a paycheck and caring for the ones they love, or even themselves. This is also a major step forward in the fight for women’s equality and closing the gender pay gap. I am grateful to the legislators, advocates, and business leaders who came to the table to ensure that this groundbreaking legislation was responsible and also attractive to the next generation of workers in order to help grow our state’s economy.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said, “The signing of this bill into law by Governor Lamont ensures that Connecticut families will not have to choose between going to work or caring for a newborn, a sick family member, or taking care of their own health. Paid family and medical leave is a long-overdue initiative, which will make Connecticut more economically competitive with neighboring states and other developed countries. I want to thank my colleagues Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and Majority Leader Matt Ritter for ensuring that this bill came to a vote in the House, Labor and Public Employees Committee co-chairs Representative Robyn Porter and Senator Julie Kushner and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff for their relentless work to make this needed protection a reality, and Governor Ned Lamont for signing the bill today. Thousands of families will have their fears and anxieties eased because of this initiative and will know that the government of Connecticut cares about the well-being of all of the state’s workers.”

Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin, Southington) said, “Today is a great day for Connecticut’s workers. People on all sides of the aisle agree that working people should have the ability to take time to care for loved ones in need. This paid family leave system, which is funded by the employees themselves, helps to ensure that no one has to choose between a paycheck or taking care of a family member who has fallen ill or just had a baby.”

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (D-Hartford) said, “Taking care of a loved one should not depend on your income level. Every one of us should be able to care for an ailing parent or spouse, or spend time with a new child.”

Senator Julie Kushner, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said, “I’ve represented working families for more than forty years – I truly understand what a difference this program will make in so many lives. Working families will be able to pay their rent while on bonding leave with a newborn child. A worker won’t have to fear losing her job, just because she suffered a serious injury. If your is parent ill and needs your help, you can be there without worrying about how to pay your bills. We have done a great thing in passing one of the very best paid family and medical leave programs in the country. It will be good for working families. It will provide peace of mind to those caring for sick loved ones. And, it will strengthen our state’s economy, providing income at a time when people need it most. I couldn’t be prouder to have worked to pass this vital piece of legislation.”

State Representative Robyn Porter (D-New Haven, Hamden), co-chair of the Labor Committee, said, “Today is a great day for Connecticut. Paid family medical leave has been long overdue. In fact, most working families – up to this point – have not had access to paid leave, and the reality is that women of color have been disproportionately impacted. No one should have to choose between their family’s well-being and a paycheck, and this new law is a win-win because it will help employers to attract and retain talented workers while ensuring workers and their families have access to time off with pay for serious health conditions when needed.”

Rory Gale, owner of Hartford Prints! in downtown Hartford, said, “As a small business owner I am so proud that paid family and medical leave is a reality in Connecticut. This program creates real choices for both workers and employers, which is a beautiful thing. We work every day at Hartford Prints! to make Connecticut a more desirable place to live for all our residents. We stand with Governor Lamont and our elected officials today because making Connecticut better means taking care of our working families. We’re a small state with a big heart!”

Todd Szoka, owner of Sunshine Cycle & Run in Colchester, said, “As the owner of a small business in Colchester, my employees are the foundation of my business. That’s why I support paid family and medical leave – a critical safety net that supports workers during times of financial insecurity and stress when their last concern should be missing a paycheck. I’m proud to live and own a business in Connecticut, a state that has finally taken the necessary steps to make comprehensive paid family and medical leave a reality for all workers and business owners like myself.”

Carmina Hirsch, owner of Hirsch Legal, LLC in Shelton and Westport, said, “As the owner of a small business, my career success is linked with my staff’s ability to balance work demands with family needs. The passage of paid family and medical leave here in Connecticut supports small business owners to foster healthy and productive employees who are mentally present at work, doing their jobs well. Thank you to Governor Lamont and Connecticut lawmakers for approving this important legislation this year to keep Connecticut’s small businesses – the backbone of our state’s economy – competitive.”

Samuel King, director of development for Blue Earth Compost in Hartford, said, “As a business made up of working class individuals, we are thrilled that the state of Connecticut is becoming a leader by passing paid family and medical leave. We are now assured that our employees are able to take care of themselves when they need time off for their family or their self without having to worry about missing paychecks because they can’t work. It’s just common sense.”

Madeline Granato, policy manager for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund and campaign director for the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, said, “CWEALF, as chair of the Campaign for Paid Family Leave, applauds Governor Lamont signing of a robust, statewide paid family and medical leave plan that will provide economic stability when women and families need it most – to care for themselves or a loved one, or welcome a child. Paid leave is a critical step forward for women’s economic security that will boost Connecticut’s competitiveness and attract young workers to our state. We are proud to join the rest of the world and our neighboring to create a system of paid leave and look forward to working with Governor Lamont and lawmakers on successful implementation of the program.”

Lindsay Farrell, state director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, said, “We are overjoyed to see paid family and medical leave signed into law today. With this program, Connecticut will become a healthier, fairer, and more successful state. Over a million workers will no longer be forced to make the impossible, inhumane choice between their health, their families, and their paychecks. And our economy will be better off for it. With this program’s passage, Connecticut is already being widely recognized as a nationwide leader and the envy of communities across the country, with national headlines declaring it ‘amazing,’ ‘expansive,’ and ‘a new standard for the U.S.’ They’re right, and we should be proud of this accomplishment. We’d like to thank Governor Lamont for his support and legislative champions – particularly Senator Julie Kushner, Representative Robyn Porter, and Representative Joshua Hall – for their fierce leadership. Most of all, we want to recognize the hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents who voted with this issue at the top of their minds, and the many thousands who continued their advocacy beyond the polls and worked every single day to make this historic achievement possible. We look forward to guaranteeing Connecticut workers a comprehensive and reliable paid leave program that puts people first.”

Karlene Whonder, a personal care attendant who advocated for the bill, said, “Today we are celebrating a law that will give working people access to paid family and medical leave to be able to fully recuperate. Working people like me will have the freedom to not worry about where our next meal will come from, or stress about how the bills are paid while we focus on healing ourselves or assisting our family members in need.”

Kellin Atherton, a resident of Middletown who advocated for the program, said, “I’ve become a new dad three times in the past six years, all without a single day of paid family leave. Today, I’m proud to stand with Governor Lamont and everyone who made passage of paid family and medical leave possible here in our state. Paid leave is critical to dads like me to be able to bond with their families and equalize caregiving responsibilities.”

Details of Connecticut’s Family and Medical Leave Act

Length of Paid Leave

Connecticut employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. As under the longstanding state and federal unpaid family and medical leave acts, employees will need their doctor to certify that they require family or medical leave. If an employee experiences a pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity then the employee would be eligible for up to 14 weeks.

State programs in Massachusetts and Washington state provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave; New York and New Jersey will soon provide up to 12 weeks as well. Washington state also provides an additional two weeks for serious pregnancy-related health conditions. California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts provide up to at least 20 weeks of paid medical leave.

Reasons for Paid Leave

Connecticut employees will be able to use paid family and medical leave for five reasons:

  1. Care for a new child (birth, adoption, foster)
  2. Care for family member with serious health condition
  3. Care for own serious health condition
  4. Qualifying exigency arising out of family member being on active duty
  5. To serve as an organ or bone marrow donor

New York, Washington state, and Massachusetts allow reasons one through four. Connecticut will be the only state in the country to allow for paid leave due to donating bone marrow or an organ.

Definition of Family Member

Connecticut’s definition of a family member aligns with that of New Jersey and include:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships

New Jersey expanded its paid family and medical leave program to include chosen family members this year.

Benefit Amount

Beginning January 1, 2022, the weekly benefit for Connecticut employees will be 95 percent of 40 times the minimum wage and 60 percent on earnings above the minimum wage. The maximum weekly benefit cannot exceed 60 times the minimum wage, which is the equivalent of $780 on a $13 minimum wage, $840 on a $14 minimum wage, and $900 on a $15 minimum wage.

Connecticut’s benefits align similarly with other states. The District of Columbia and Washington state provide workers with up to 90 percent of their wages. The maximum weekly benefit in California is $1,252; $1,000 in the District of Columbia; and $850 in Massachusetts.

Employees Covered

In Connecticut, paid leave will apply to private sector employers with one or more employees. Self-employed employees and sole-proprietors have the ability to opt-in to the program. In addition, non-union state and local government employees are covered. Unionized public workers will have the ability to collectively bargain and become covered.

Similarly, all private sector employers are covered in state paid leave programs in California, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Washington state.

Provisions in the state’s longstanding family and medical leave act that protect the jobs of employees who require leave will be extended to apply to small employers, provided employees have worked for an employer for at least three months. New York and Massachusetts also expanded those protections.

Program Funding

In Connecticut, both personal disability leave and family care leave will be funded by the employee only. The withholding rate is 0.5 (one-half of one) percent on earnings up to the Social Security wage base.

For comparison, other states fund paid leave programs through either the employee only or a combination of the employee and the employer. In California, both personal disability and family care are funded by the employee only at one percent of a worker’s first $118,371 in wages. Additionally in Rhode Island, both personal disability and family care are funded by the employee only at 1.1 percent of a worker’s first $71,000 in wages.

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