Perhaps we should take a lesson from the UK. Faced with a “three-decade-old body of law, featuring nine antidiscrimination laws” which some described as “outdated, fragmented, inconsistent, inadequate, inaccessible, and at times incomprehensible,” a research team in 2000 recommended a single equality act, according to a recent Vanderbilt Law Review article. That single equality act was enacted in 2010.
The adjectives used to describe the UK’s antidiscrimination law describe perfectly the patchwork of leave laws in the US. More than 450 federal, state and local laws give employees the right not to come to work for a variety of reasons. As I have written previously, the issue is not the social policy behind any of these laws. The issue is that they present a significant compliance challenge for employers, especially multistate employers.
Try to draft a single attendance policy that would meet the requirements of the federal FMLA, all of the state family and medical leave laws, the ADA, federal and state pregnancy leave laws, and all of the seven jurisdictions that have paid sick leave laws. The result would be a leave policy that goes on for dozens of pages, a challenge to digest and apply for even the heartiest policy wonk.
Being a realist, I do not anticipate the US would ever be able to reach a single model leave law incorporating both federal and state laws. But drafting a model state leave law may be possible. Reconciling the model leave law with federal law would remain a challenge, but a much more manageable one than we have today. And when companies consider where to move or expand, an enlightened state that has adopted the model leave law might just have an advantage,