Senators Tom Killion and Andy Dinniman have introduced a bill to substantially extend family medical leave provisions in Pennsylvania. The bipartisan legislation would expand family medical leave rights to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren for the first time ever in the state.
Under the bill, up to six weeks of protected, unpaid leave would be provided to an employee in order to care for a terminally ill sibling, grandparent or grandchild. This would only apply if the ill relative does not have a living spouse, child over the age of 17 or parent under the age of 65 to care for them.
“Terminally ill individuals need all of the family support they can get,” said Killion. “We must ensure that siblings, grandparents and grandchildren can take time to care for loved ones if no one else is able to do so. This kind of family care is the hallmark of any compassionate society and is long overdue in our state,” he added.
Dinniman said, “Pennsylvanians shouldn’t be forced to choose between their jobs and their families when it comes to caring for a terminally ill sibling, grandparent, or grandchild. We should be supporting those relationships and responsibilities – not making an already difficult time more challenging. We’ve worked diligently and carefully to make this legislation as specific and as business-friendly as possible. And it’s high time that it becomes law.”
The family medical leave reform legislation has local roots in Chester County, resulting from the experiences of West Goshen resident Anne Marie Pearson.
In 2009, Pearson’s sister, Joanne, was diagnosed with late-stage gynecologic cancer and needed around-the-clock care. Joanne Pearson wasn’t married, did not have children, her father was deceased and her mother was elderly.
Anne Pearson applied for family medical leave to care for her sister but was denied because she was a sibling, which does not fit the strict definition of “family” under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Her only option to care for her sister until she passed away was to leave her job of 17 years, which she did.
“I often thought who would have taken care of Joanne if I didn’t sacrifice my job and my livelihood? No one should have to ever choose between keeping their job or taking care of a sick family member,” said Pearson.
Pearson added, “Decisions like these can be devastating to Pennsylvania families. The traditional family unit of ‘mother-father-child’ doesn’t always exist in today’s world and no one single law can specify who is considered family. It’s time we have some real legislation and policies that reflect our communities. Expanding the family medical leave law is good for both businesses and families.”
The family medical leave legislation authored by Killion and Dinniman has officially been introduced as Senate Bill 140.