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Partly Due to COVID-19, L.A. City Council Gives City Employees Paid Parental Leave

Close up of a new parent's hand holding a baby's hand.
A new parent holds a baby's hand. | Flickr/Reproducción Asistida/Creative Commons/Public Domain
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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council today unanimously approved an ordinance to provide paid parental leave to all civilian city employees through June 30, 2025.

The ordinance, which gives the vast majority of city employees, regardless of gender, up to six weeks of 100% paid time off for pregnancy disability or to bond with a new child, is subject to the approval of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who reconfirmed his support in a statement after the vote.

“COVID-19 has shined a bright light on the unique struggles faced by parents every day to balance work and child care, and laid bare deep gender inequities across our society and economy,” Garcetti said. “No parent should have to rely on their sick or vacation days to bond with their children — not during this pandemic and not ever — and the Paid Parental Time pilot will ensure our city workers can keep their jobs and paychecks, and never have to worry about their economic security, just for doing right by their families.”

The ordinance also includes six weeks paid time off for employees who adopt or have long-term placement of a foster child. It does not apply to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Employees, according to Garcetti.

“We've got to stop continuing to punish women for having children and wanting to be caregivers and taking care of their loved ones,” Council President Nury Martinez said.

“There is an unsaid assumption that women will work through maternity leave, and we're expected to give birth and get back to work right away and that's just absolutely ridiculous and if we want to be able to promote women in the workplace in the city of L.A., if we want more women leading departments, if we want more women making sure they're driving some of these policies that are fair and equitable than we need to recognize the importance of this policy,” Martinez said.

The city currently gives employees up to 18 weeks off — unpaid or paid using sick or vacation time — for family or medical purposes, including childbirth recovery and child bonding.

“This new program will make a big impact on L.A.'s workforce in a very positive way, and that's why our union is proud to support it,” said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU 721, which represents about 11,000 employees in the city. “Gender equity is something we hear a lot about these days, but this legislation is a solid example of us meeting the challenge with tangible new policies, not just talk. I'm very pleased to see how labor and our city leaders, working in partnership on this shared goal, will improve the quality of life for generations of future Angelenos and their families.”

The chief administrative officer found that the new policy of giving six weeks paid parental leave to employees was not expected to have any significant budgetary impact on the city.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said the ordinance “will set a good example for the rest of the community of employers about what should be expected by their employees to be able to have a good career, maintain that career, stay in their jobs while still supporting their bonding with their children and building stronger families.”

The effort has been in the works since September 2015, when Krekorian and Martinez introduced a motion to have the chief legislative analyst and city administrative officer draft a report on the subject.

In October 2019, Garcetti unveiled a proposal to offer paid parental leave to city employees.

“Family is everything, and parents shouldn't have to rely only on sick or vacation days when it's time to bond with their children,” Garcetti said when he announced the proposal at the third annual State of Women and Girls Address and Expo.

“We look at everything we do through a gender-equity lens, and paid parental leave will empower women in the workplace, help moms and dads care for their kids and support city workers in a way that helps them better serve the public,” he said.

After the ordinance was approved Wednesday, a light applause could be heard in the background.

Martinez said, “All the women in the council chambers are applauding, by the way members.” Krekorian responded, “So are the dads, by the way.”

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