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Ohio Group Pushing for Broader Maternity Leave

August 12, 2007

As the New York Times reports, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has proposed maternity leave protections that exceed the protections offered by Federal FMLA law.

The Federal law only offers protections to works who have been employed at the same place for 12 months or 1250 hours, whereas the Ohio proposal would prohibit “distinctions based upon length of service.” Likewise, the Federal law only protects workers at businesses that employ 50 or more people, whereas the NYTimes reports that Ohio would apply protections to workers where 4 or more people are employed, although this distinction is not clear in the proposal text.

Some business types are opposing the change. Tony Fiore, director of labor and human resources policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, says there’s no reason to change the current law, because requiring positions to be held open or allowing women to be eligible within the first year would hurt businesses. Also, “Ty Pine, legislative director for the Ohio branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said the market was doing a good job of establishing reasonable maternity leaves for workers and businesses.”

Not explained is what is “the market” in this case – the businesses who are hesitant to provide this protection to workers? The businesses who would not offer such protections if the law didn’t mandate it? Is there some assumption that all workers truly have the option of shopping around for the best maternity leave in advance of any plans to become pregnant, rather than simply getting an available job? Would being employed for >1 year demonstrate some kind of arbitrarily-set commitment to the business on the part of the pregnant woman, a commitment the business is not necessarily required to reciprocate? Would the positions really be “held open,” preventing any work from being done for 12 weeks, or could a temporary worker be hired?

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