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President Obama Urges Greater Workplace Support for Pregnant Women, Families

President Obama Urges Greater Workplace Support for Pregnant Women, Families

June 23, 2014 — President Obama on Monday will announce a series of proposals that aim to increase workplace flexibility and fairness for working families, the Washington Post's "She The People" reports.

The proposals encompass a combination of private and public initiatives that would mark the first significant expansion of benefits and protections for working families in two decades. According to "She The People," the efforts focus on increasing flexible work options, paid parental leave, early childhood education and equal access to benefits for married same-sex couples (Schulte, "She The People," Washington Post, 6/23).

Obama will unveil the proposals during an all-day summit on working families that is co-hosted by the White House, the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress (Sink, "Briefing Room," The Hill, 6/23).

During his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said that family leave, workplace flexibility and child care policies are essential needs for workers. He said that while some businesses are working to implement family-friendly policies, the entire country must make it easier for parents and other employees with family needs to remain in the workplace (AP/Miami Herald, 6/21).

Key Efforts

Obama is urging Congress to approve the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942), which would ensure employers make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. The bill would also prohibit employers from forcing pregnant workers to take unpaid or paid leave instead of granting reasonable requests for accommodations ("She the People," Washington Post, 6/23).

As part of the effort to support pregnant workers, DOL will develop a website detailing pregnant workers' rights in each state.

In addition, Obama will call for a comprehensive review of all federal departments' and agencies' workplace policies, with a goal of improving workplace flexibility for parents. Further, the president will direct the federal government to create a "Workplace Flexibility Index" to measure how well agencies accommodate workers' requests for flexible work plans.

However, the president is not expected to take executive action to expand federal paid parental leave. According to "Briefing Room," the federal government does not offer paid maternity or paternity leave for its workers, but employees are eligible for unpaid leave.

Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett noted that Obama has put in place a paid maternity leave policy for White House employees. Obama also supports legislation that would make federal workers eligible for one month of paid parental leave ("Briefing Room," The Hill, 6/23).

The Obama administration also is taking action to extend workplace protections like the Family Medical Leave Act to all families, including married same-sex couples. FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually to care for themselves during an illness, a sick family member or a new child ("She The People," Washington Post, 6/23).