Paid Parental Leave Coming for Federal Workers

January 8, 2020

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

Federal employees will soon be entitled to 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a new law signed by President Trump. While the law does not apply to private employers, its supporters hope it will spur more companies to offer similar benefits. According to federal statistics, only 17 percent of all US employees had access to paid family leave in 2018.

Effective October 1, 2020, federal workers who have held their jobs for at least one year will be guaranteed 12 weeks of paid parental leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child occurring on or after that date. However, the law does not include paid time off to care for a sick relative or for an employee's own medical issues.

A key sponsor of the paid parental leave law, New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, said in a statement that it is "a tremendous victory for 2.1 million federal employees who will no longer need to choose between being home with their new child or their paychecks."

Employees who want to take paid leave must agree in writing to return to work for at least 12 weeks after their leave ends - a requirement that can be waived if the employee develops a serious physical or mental health condition after the birth or placement of a new child.

This law marks the first update to federal family leave policy since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - providing up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave - was enacted in 1993.

And That's Not All…

A federal ban-the-box measure was also included in the same legislative package as the paid parental leave law.

The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 (Fair Chance Act) includes provisions:

  • Prohibiting the federal government from requesting criminal history information from applicants before making a conditional job offer; and
  • Prohibiting federal contractors from seeking criminal history information from applicants for positions within the scope of federal contracts before the conditional offer stage.

Penalties for federal contractors under the Fair Chance Act can range from a written warning for a first violation up to suspension of contract payments until the contractor shows compliance with the law. However, there are several notable exceptions, including:

  • Law enforcement positions;
  • Positions with national security duties;
  • Jobs requiring access to classified information; and
  • Positions that by law require a federal contractor or the federal government to obtain criminal history information before making a conditional job offer.

In all, 13 states plus the District of Columbia have ban-the-box laws restricting when private employers may seek criminal history information during the hiring process.