Game of Thrones, one of my favorite shows, most recently returned for its sixth season. Don’t worry, no spoilers here if you haven’t seen the first couple of episodes of this season. However, if you haven’t noticed, one of the recurring themes for the characters in Game of Thrones appears to be daddy issues. In fact, in virtually every circumstance, a major character’s flaws, insecurities, or other personality traits can easily be traced to the relationship with one’s parents, specifically one’s father.
For example, the Lannister clan, particularly Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion, are an interesting bunch. No doubt the death of their mother, combined with the cold and ruthless approach of their father, Tywin, had something to do with that. We all know by now exactly how much Tyrion and Tywin didn’t get along, right? The brash actions of Theon Greyjoy in attempting to take over Winterfell, which eventually resulted in his swift and disturbing fall from grace, can no doubt be tied to his compulsive need to prove his worth to his father, Balon Greyjoy, who essentially treated Theon as disowned. Although Daenerys Targaryen was just a young girl when she fled King’s Landing, the actions of her father (I mean, he was called the “Mad King” for a reason) resulted in her current circumstances and likely hover as a cloud above her (potential?) legacy. The list goes on and on for numerous other characters on the show (whether it be House Baratheon, House Bolton, to even someone like Samwell Tarly). Unfortunately, probably the best “parents” on the show, Ned and Catelyn Stark, met their ultimate demise, leaving their children to fend for themselves, some more successfully than others.
Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors likely were watching Game of Thrones and thought “Enough! We need to improve family relations!” So just last month, the Board unanimously passed a paid family leave law that provides for six weeks of fully paid leave for new parents. The law becomes effective on different dates depending upon the size of the employer, with the first effective date to be January 1, 2017, and is the first city law providing full paid leave benefits. This San Francisco law came just one day after New York State passed a law providing for partial paid family leave benefits for up to 12 weeks. An additional three states (California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) already provide some form of partial paid family leave. The aforementioned paid family laws also have provisions prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who take paid family leave.
The San Francisco law, however, is somewhat unique. Whereas the current state paid family leave laws provide for partial paid leave, and are funded by employee-paid payroll taxes and administered through state disability or other programs, the San Francisco law takes it a step further. Since the State of California provides employees with partial paid leave, the San Francisco law requires employers to make up any difference in order to ensure employees obtain the full amount of paid leave for the requisite six weeks.
Employers need to remain cognizant and aware of these trends. In fact, in just the past few years, paid sickleave has greatly increased in prominence through various newly enacted state and city laws. It would not be a surprise if paid family leave becomes a similar trend. Employers who have always merely abided by the guidelines of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or who are not even subject to the FMLA at all, must keep up to date on these new developments and how they may impact their leave policies and procedures.
I think most of us can agree that allowing parents to spend more time with their children, especially newborns, without the worry of wondering if they can afford to take that time off, is a great benefit. However, the legal, procedural and administrative requirements connected with ever expanding leave laws can also cause a nightmare for employers. Therefore, it is incumbent upon employers to ensure they are up to date on the developing trends in the law so that they can get ahead of such trends with respect to their policies, or at least prepare for them. So make sure to keep that in mind. After all, Winter is Coming.