Paid family leave may be coming to state employees in Nevada

By: - April 12, 2023 5:35 am

Only a quarter of all non-federal public and private employers nationwide offer any sort of paid parental leave. (Photo: Ronda Churchill/Nevada Current)

Nevada, like the majority of states, currently has no state paid family leave law.

That means workers securing time off to physically recover from giving birth and bond with your newborn requires hoarding vacation time, or saving enough money to be able to take unpaid leave. It can be a financial and emotional strain for any family. For many low-wage workers, it is an unwinnable scenario that forces them back into workplaces weeks earlier than medical professionals recommend.

But some additional resources may be coming, at least for state employees.

Assembly Bill 376, introduced into the Nevada State Legislature last month, would provide state employees eight weeks of paid family leave, which could be used after the birth or adoption of a child, to recover from a serious illness or care for a family member with a serious illness, or to address needs after a family member’s military deployment. The leave would be paid at 50% of the person’s regular wage.

Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola, D-Las Vegas, described the bill as part of a larger scope of efforts to bolster the state’s ability to recruit and retain employees. Other legislative efforts in this vein include offering state employees quarterly retention bonuses and sizable salary increases. Marzola on Tuesday co-presented AB 376 to the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs, which is sponsoring the bill.

Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine co-presented with Marzola and told the committee the bill is modeled after legislation in California.

“In this market it is very difficult to retain and recruit employees at the quality that we deeply need in order to do the state’s work,” said Conine. “And more importantly, when we have individuals that have to leave the service of the state in order to have children we are losing their voice at the table.”

Under AB 376, employees would be required to exhaust any paid sick or vacation leave they have accrued above 40 hours. That 40-hour buffer is designed to provide employees with some flexibility, explained Conine.

The bill as introduced would only apply to classified employees, who are typically non-salaried employees. The treasurer’s office has already submitted a proposed amendment that would secure paid family leave for all employees. In respect to the birth of a child, the paid family leave would be available for both parents, not just the one who physically gives birth.

Assemblyman Duy Nguyen, D-Las Vegas, said that a decade ago as a private sector employee he received two months of fully paid time off to bond with his firstborn child.

Nguyen raised concerns that many employees may not be able to live off 50% of their normal salary for eight weeks. He said he would support 100% pay for new parents.

Conine acknowledged that some businesses are offering better benefits, such as fully paid parental leave for longer periods of time.

“This moves us closer in that direction,” he added, “but we’re going to have a lot of work to do to catch up to the private sector.”

Although some businesses do offer paid family leave as part of their benefits package, data has shown that a majority of U.S. workers are either employed by businesses that don’t offer such benefits, or they are ineligible. A 2019 representative national survey conducted by KFF found only a quarter of all non-federal public and private employers offered any sort of paid parental leave. Larger employers, and employees with higher-wage workers, are more likely to offer paid family leave.

That aligns with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that has found only 23% of workers nationwide have access to paid family leave.

Even the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides job protection for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, applies to less than half of all workers nationwide. That’s because of an exemption for small employers and eligibility requirements around length of employment and hours worked.

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, as of January 2023, 13 states have enacted some kind of paid family leave policies, and an additional five states have passed legislation that has yet to go into effect.

The Assembly Committee on Government Affairs took no action on AB 376 on Tuesday.

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April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus

April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, three children and one mutt.