The county council unanimously passed a pair of bills led by council member Andrew Friedson that seek to improve working conditions for county employees.
A bill would require county buildings to set up lactation rooms for county employees. The legislation has undergone some changes since its first draft, which called for rooms to be equipped with a flat surface where a breast pump can be placed, a sink with running water, a small refrigerator, a microwave, electrical outlets, a chair and other Necessities.
After review by several county agencies, the legislation now requires:
- Lactation rooms in new county buildings must have a sink with running water while existing buildings must at least have access to running water nearby;
- The county must complete an assessment of lactation rooms in its buildings within six months, construction of rooms in the busiest buildings within 12 months, and construction of rooms in all buildings in the county within 24 months;
- The county must allow employees a reasonable amount of time to express their breast milk, but the county is not required to pay them for that time;
- Rooms must be able to be locked or secured from the inside. The Office of Human Resources should work with the county to help identify where they are, once settled.
Supporters of the bill said at a press briefing in June that the legislation will help county employees who need access to these rooms after childbirth and help alleviate a major challenge for employees trying to juggle work and child care.
The second bill implements a paid parental leave policy for county employees. The policy provides six weeks of full pay for part-time and full-time county employees, including birth parents, adoptive parents or foster parents. The bill also applies to county employees who are the spouse or domestic partner of a parent and provides paid family leave for parents of stillborn children.
According to the bill. Additionally, county employees should not be required to exhaust sick, vacation, or other paid time off before using paid parental leave.
Friedson said in an interview in June that paid family leave legislation was intended as a tool to attract and retain employees, and that the county government should set an example for the private sector.
“We don’t want to spend all of our time building institutional knowledge, training members of our workforce, giving them the skills to be productive supporters of our community – and then, when they have a child, to not have the right support here, and have to make this terrible, impossible decision between caring for their family and their newborn or foster child or going back to work,” Friedson said.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at [email protected]