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Rep. Porter Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Close Family Leave Loophole

Congresswoman’s bill would ensure married individuals cannot be discriminated against under existing family leave policy

Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) today introduced a bipartisan bill to remove a marriage penalty from federal family leave policy. The legislation would ensure that married couples who work for the same employer are not restricted in the amount of leave they can take under existing law, closing a loophole that has become increasingly prevalent for the modern workforce.

“As a working mom myself, I know how challenging it can be to balance the needs of work and family.” Congresswoman Porter said. “Working families are the backbone of our Orange County communities, and family leave is an important policy that allows these Americans to fully participate in our economy. This commonsense bill closes a loophole in existing leave law to ensure that married individuals aren’t unfairly penalized if they work for the same employer. I am proud to work with House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this, and I hope we can continue to work together to grow and improve family leave.”

The FAIR Leave Act—or Fair Access for Individuals to Receive Leave Act—addresses some of the shortcomings of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide more comprehensive and effective leave for American families. Porter was joined by a bipartisan group of colleagues in introducing this bill: Reps. Pete King (R-NY), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Andy Levin (D-MI), John Katko (R-NY), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). 

“Caring for a newborn or an ill parent should be a priority for any couple. To penalize simply because of a shared employer is not right. The FAIR Leave Act rectifies this wrong,” said Rep. King.

“One important step we must take to rebuild the middle class is to ensure fairness in the workplace—especially as it pertains to parental leave,” Rep. Levin said. “It makes no sense to punish families because two parents are married and work for the same employer. The FAIR Leave Act is a no-brainer, bipartisan fix that will make sure that families have appropriate time to recover from labor and delivery, bond with their newborn and celebrate a growing family.”

“Regardless of their employer, working couples should never have to choose between keeping their job or caring for a loved one,” said Rep. Stevens. “Married couples should not be penalized for working for the same employer. The bipartisan, bicameral FAIR Leave Act is a commonsense solution that will help Michiganders take the time they need to care for a new child or an ailing parent, while maintaining their job security.”

“As a father, I understand the challenge many parents in Central New York and across the country face in balancing work and family. Unfortunately, under the existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), this balancing act is exacerbated for married couples who work for the same employer,” said Rep. Katko. “These couples are currently limited in the amount of time they can take off  to care for a newborn, sick parent, servicemember, or for the adoption of a child. With the bipartisan Fair Access for Individuals to Receive (FAIR) Leave Act, we will lift these restrictions, providing families the flexibility they need.”

“It is completely unfair that couples who work for the same employer are penalized for taking time off. The FAIR Leave Act will close the loophole that has made this an issue,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “We cannot continue to leave our working families behind. I look forward to working to see the FAIR Leave Act become law.”

While the FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, it limits the amount of leave that married couples working for the same employer may take for spending time at home with their new baby or caring for a sick loved one or servicemember. The FAIR Leave Act will repeal this limitation.

The bill enables eligible spouses working for the same employer to each take up to 12 work weeks (24 total) of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for the following FMLA-qualifying reasons:

  • the birth of a son or daughter;
  • the placement and adoption of a child; or
  • the care of a parent with a serious health condition.

It will also allow eligible spouses to each take 26 weeks to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, Military Officers Association of America, Independent Women’s Forum, A Better Balance, National Partnership for Women & Families, 1000 Days, PL+US, National Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers have endorsed Porter’s legislation.

Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced similar legislation in the Senate with Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Read the full bill text HERE.