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Los Angeles City Council unanimously approves study on 4 weeks of paid parental leave

Tim Waddill gives his newborn twin son, Chase, a bottle at their home in Irving, Texas, in this file photo from 2006.
AP Photo/Donna McWilliam
Tim Waddill gives his newborn twin son, Chase, a bottle at their home in Irving, Texas, in this file photo from 2006.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday directed city staff to study the impacts of providing four weeks of paid parental leave to city employees who have a new child. This includes children who are born to the parents, as well as adopted and foster children.

Councilman Paul Krekorian and Councilwoman Nury Martinez co-sponsored the motion, which was approved unanimously 13-0, with councilmen Curren Price and Jose Huizar absent.

The motion directs the city's chief legislative analyst and its administrative officer to report on:

  • The average time a city employee takes off during pregnancy and for bonding purposes.
  • The costs and consequences of parents leaving the city's workforce after having a child.
  • The feasibility and budgetary impacts of offering city employees four weeks paid parental leave for bonding purposes.

The United States is the only developed nation that does not require paid leave for new parents. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees who have become new parents to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the care of their newborn, adopted or foster child.
"While the United States lags behind most developed countries in providing benefits to expecting parents, recently employers as varied as Netflix, Microsoft and the U.S. Navy have begun to offer generous parental leave benefits for their employees, in recognition of the challenges of starting a family while both parents work," Krekorian and Martinez said in their motion.

Other cities have been moving toward offering paid parental leave. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order in January that would allow the city's 20,000 non-union employees six weeks of full pay for maternity, paternity, adoption or foster-care leave. Chicago, Boston and San Francisco also offer paid parental leave benefits from four to 12 weeks. Meanwhile, the states of California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have paid family leave policies in place, and lawmakers in 18 states and the District of Columbia are considering similar measures.

Krekorian and Martinez noted in their motion and presentation to the council that more than half of the employees in some city departments are of retirement age, and the city expects to add as many as 5,000 more employees to its roles as the city recovers from cuts due to the recession. In response, they said, the city needs to offer competitive benefits to attract talented workers.

"In many cases, the city will not offer the most competitive salaries or the best 'perks' to compete with the private sector, but it can provide a significant benefit for new parents or those planning a family," they said. "These upcoming retirements present an opportunity for the city to increase the number of women in the city’s workforce and compete for the best employee talent."

In a previous KPCC report on the paid-leave motion, economist Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute said younger workers throughout the city are growing concerned about the high cost of living. 

"If you look at Los Angeles as a whole, not just the public sector, there's been real issues with the middle class — particularly the young who want to start families — moving out," Klowden said. "If you want to retain the young people, you need to be able to step in and offer them something that makes the job offers more appealing now. Family leave is a great way of doing it." 

California state law allows workers to take six weeks off to bond with a newborn and collect 55 percent of their wages in disability pay. A bill authored by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of L.A. to significantly expand that benefit is working its way through the legislature in Sacramento.