Matt Lesser

State Senator

Matt Lesser

Deputy Majority Leader

Your Independent Voice

May 22, 2019

Sen. Lesser Votes in Favor of Statewide
Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

HARTFORD, CT – Today, state Senator Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) voted in favor of legislation to create a statewide paid family and medical leave program. The bill passed by a 21 to 15 vote. This legislation will enable Connecticut residents to gain access to benefits allowing them to take time off from work to care for a newborn or a sick family member and have the peace of mind that they will still receive a paycheck.

“This is the culmination of five years of work that I’ve put into this,” said Sen. Lesser. “This is the most important piece of social legislation in decades. Connecticut now has the opportunity to join all of our surrounding states and the rest of the world in allowing families to earn paid family and medical leave. Families like Jan and Brendon Cameron. Brendon, a disabled Gulf War veteran, received care from his wife Jan, who worked for a small nonprofit. Her employer terminated her and the Cameron’s were forced into foreclosure. Due to our inability to offer paid family and medical leave, we pushed a war veteran and his wife into poverty. I also know from first-hand experience as a cancer survivor how important the financial protections that paid leave offers are and why this bill will make a difference for families all across our state.”

Senate Bill 1, “An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave,” is state Senate Democrats’ top priority this legislative session. This program reflects the needs of the changing dynamic of working households in the United States. The percentage of two-parent households in which both parents work full time was 31 percent in 1970 and increased to 46 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of two-parent households in which the father is full time and the mother is not employed has shrunk from 46 percent in 1970 to 26 percent in 2015.

As the dynamic of the modern household continues to evolve, state governments across the United States are beginning to enact family and medical leave programs to catch up with other countries which have had similar programs on the books for years. California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington state all have paid family and medical leave programs.

According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization, 183 of the 185 countries and territories surveyed provide some sort of paid maternity leave. Across the 41 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Union, the United States is the only nation that does not provide any paid leave for new parents.

The details of the bill include:

Length of Paid Leave
Connecticut employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. If an employee experiences pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity then the employee would be eligible for 14 weeks.

Similarly, state programs in Massachusetts and Washington state provide 12 weeks of paid leave. Washington also provides an additional two weeks for serious pregnancy-related health conditions. However, in Massachusetts employees are eligible for 20 weeks of paid leave for their own serious health condition.

Reasons for Paid Leave
Connecticut employees would 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 would 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 would align 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

Benefit Amount

Beginning January 1, 2022, the weekly benefit for Connecticut employees will be 95% of 40 times the minimum wage and 60% 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. In California the maximum weekly benefit 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 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, Washington state.

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.