By Ana Pardo,
Campaign & Outreach Coordinator, Workers’ Rights Project N.C. Justice Center
Last Wednesday, the National Partnership for Women & Families released a nationwide report card grading all 50 states on key family-friendly policies like paid sick days, paid family medical leave and pregnancy accommodations. Disappointingly, North Carolina received a “D” grade for its lack of any policy requiring employers to provide paid sick days, paid maternity, paternity or other family medical leave and for a complete lack of policies to protect pregnant women from workplace discrimination.
The absence of these policies hamstrings people who work for a living. Only 12 percent of working people across the country have access to employer-provided paid medical leave to recover from childbirth or major illness, or provide extended care for a loved one. The rest of the working population cobbles together vacation time to recover from chemo, or leaves the workforce entirely to care for an ailing parent, or in the case of an alarming number of new moms, goes back to work within days of giving birth.
One new Charlotte, NC mom shared her experience trying to reconcile her doctor’s advice with the demands of her employer:
I just had my beautiful baby girl June 7th. She was a month early. I delivered her by c-section. My job of 10 years will only allow me 6 weeks leave even though my doctor has written me out for 8 weeks. My doctor said there’s no way I could return back to work in 6 weeks. I am appalled by the decision, especially given that I had a c-section and numerous other serious complications.
Parents in low-wage jobs and parents of color are most impacted the lack of family-friendly workplace policies. Low-wage earning parents disproportionately lack access to unpaid family medical leave, employer-provided short-term disability insurance, paid sick days or employer-provided paid family leave. Respectively, African American and Latino working parents are 6 percent and 25 percent less likely than their white counterparts to have access to paid parental leave.
Given the political landscape in the state legislature, North Carolina’s lack of family-friendly workplace policies likely comes as no surprise to most. However, these policies enjoy broad support from both folks across ideologies and party affiliations. A 2015 Public Policy Polling survey found that over 75 percent of respondents supported paid sick days, and a subsequent poll in March of this year showed 58 percent support for paid family medical leave.
This begs the question: why don’t North Carolina’s elected leaders support family-friendly policies like paid sick days and paid family leave? It’s one we hope candidates will be asked often between now and November.