Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Paid family leave, let's let California try it....

Even when first passed, those who supported the Family Medical Leave Act, the Clinton administration's only employment legislative legacy, admitted it was only the first step. What was really desired, and needed, to be equal to most other industrial nations, was to have paid leave. The attempt to use the national unemployment compensation system for partial payment seems to have fizzled, but now a major battle is underway in California. The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is working its way through the California legislative process.

Many states rights enthusiasts, George Will comes to mind, believe that the states are great testing grounds for initiatives, offering a way to see if the ideas work, before inflicting them on the nation as a whole. (Obviously, that is posed in the most negative fashion, as such initiatives could prove to be a good idea. On this one I have my doubts.)

The arguments are being formulated, but I am game to let California have a go at it. Let's see if it benefits workers as a whole, as opposed to those individuals who may, at least in the short term, get the paid leave. For views pro and con, see E. Kay Trimberger's piece in the Mercury News and the the California Chamber of Commerce's position paper.

The impact of employment legislation is widespread and often brings into play the law of unintended consequences. I think particular care should be given when it is entitlement employment legislation. Even if it has no other effect (and it will), at a minimum it diminishes the abilities of a superior employer who wishes to distinguish itself for the purposes of retention and competition for talent from setting itself apart from other employers by being unique in providing such benefits.

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