Daphne Richards, a newly-divorced mother of two living in Colorado, thought that she had found the perfect fit as a shift manager at a Chick-fil-A in Larkridge, Colorado, according to 7 News Denver. The company seemed family friendly and had generous health care coverage. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed a double mastectomy, that coverage kicked in. Daphne was lucky that her employer continued to pay her health care benefits as she took her unpaid leave, because she was not qualified for coverage under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This is a common story. An estimated 50 percent of the workforce in the United States is not covered under FMLA. This is either because the worker’s place of employment has too few employees to require coverage, or because the employee has not worked at the business for enough time.
When Daphne returned to work, however, she was shocked when her position – and her benefits – were no longer available. Her hours were reduced from more than 40 per week to 15 or fewer, and her hourly wage was reduced from $14 to $10 per hour. It seems unbelievable that businesses can treat their employees this way, but this is another unfortunate reality for half of the workforce. Richards would be eligible for her old job, wages, and benefits after returning from leave – if she was covered under FMLA.
Although Colorado is across the country, workers in Connecticut not covered by FMLA face similar struggles when they lose their benefits, job security, and peace of mind. Even those with unpaid leave benefits have trouble making ends meet. For example, 78% of people who don’t take FMLA leave, even when they need it, say that they cannot afford to lose part of their income.
It is clear: unpaid leave is not enough.
For this reason, CWEALF, together with the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, co-chair the Connecticut Campaign for Paid Family Leave. The Campaign supports an accessible, state-wide wage replacement system to help workers afford to take time off if they become ill, or if they need to take care of an ill spouse or family member. If paid family leave was a reality, employees like Daphne could worry about losing their jobs less and about recovering from a battle with cancer more.
Do you want to know more about paid family leave in Connecticut? You can visit the Campaign’s website, and sign up for our mailing list. You can also share your story by writing in or snapping a selfie explaining why paid family leave is important to you.
Kimberly Cerullo is a graduate social work student at the University of Connecticut and a policy intern with the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund.