Democrats in Florida Legislature Want to Give State Employees Family Leave After Stillbirths

Last week, state Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, and state Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, D-Hollywood, filed legislation to ensure all state employees who give birth have access to paid family leave, even in cases of stillbirth.

Book filed the proposal in response to the case of a Washington D.C. public school teacher who was denied paid leave following the stillbirth of her daughter earlier this year.

“Paid family leave is critical for all mothers, regardless of the circumstances of their child’s birth,” said Book. “If you have given birth, you deserve time to heal. We are going to protect that for state employees.”

“It is unconscionable that someone would be denied time to heal after giving birth and would be denied the time to grieve after a stillbirth,” said Woodson. “Stillbirths are a lot more common than we think but many are unaware because the subject is still not spoken about enough, despite the thousands of people who are affected. I am proud to be filing this bill in the House as I believe it will benefit many parents and families across the state who find themselves in this difficult situation. Additionally, the bill protects job seekers from losing out on valuable compensation as a result of their wage or salary history. This information is often used in the hiring process to determine salary and leads to prospective employees earning less in wages than they could have been receiving. Stagnant wages is a huge issue for the working class and this bill seeks to close that gap.”

District of Columbia Public Schools denied first-grade math and science teacher Elizabeth O’Donnell paid family leave earlier this year because she could not provide a birth certificate for her stillborn daughter, Aaliyah, delivered at seven months. Despite explanation of the circumstances and documentation – including a death certificate – O’Donnell was denied paid leave and told that her stillbirth did not qualify.

Under current Florida law, all state employees are entitled to paid family leave following the birth of a child. The proposal will protect this right in cases where a child is stillborn.

“This bill will ensure mothers of stillborn children receive paid family leave if they are employed by the state of Florida,” said Book who filed the bill last year as well. “It’s a lot to go through. Let’s make this easier, not harder.”

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