DC considering 16 weeks paid leave for parents, caregivers

WASHINGTON - New D.C. Council legislation introduced Tuesday would give workers 16 weeks of paid leave in circumstances ranging from the birth of a child to caring for a dying parent.

The legislation would allow employees who work in Washington and city residents who work outside the city to access a fund that would pay for the leave, its sponsors say. Workers can use the time to bond with an infant or adopted child, to recover from an illness, to recuperate from a military deployment, or to care for an ill family member. The only employees who would be excluded are Virginia and Maryland residents who work for the federal government, which the city can't force to participate.

A government-run fund created by a new tax on employers would pay for the benefit. Workers earning up to $52,000 a year would get 100 percent of pay. Higher earners could get $1,000 weekly plus 50 percent of additional income up to a maximum of $3,000.

The legislation would more than double the length of any paid-leave program in the country. In the past 10 years, just three states have passed similar laws. California and New Jersey offer six weeks of partial paid leave.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce is pushing back against the proposal. The group said in a letter to the council Monday that the program would make the city "dangerously uncompetitive." The president of the Chamber of Commerce, Harry Wingo, called the move "unprecedented" and bad for city businesses.

D.C. Council member David Grosso, who introduced the bill along with six other members of the 13-member council, said in a statement Tuesday that the so-called Universal Paid Leave Act "will support our D.C. workers and families."