New rules proposed by the agency for the State’s Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) program before the onset of the covid-19 pandemic could increase medical benefit costs for employers at a time when counties will least be able to afford it. Under the proposed rules, an employer would have to continue to maintain medical benefits for the duration of an employee’s PFML if it overlaps by even one day with any Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) authorized leave.

Under FMLA, an employer is obligated to maintain benefits during the protected leave period (typically, up to 12 weeks); however, the State PFML statute doesn’t guarantee continuation of benefits. It was assumed that, in many cases, the two leaves would be taken concurrently, but it is possible for the two types of leave to be taken separately. With the proposed rules, if there was any overlap – even a day – that would trigger an employer need to continue benefits, which could extend the current twelve-week commitment to up to 30 weeks. WSAC opposed a similar proposed rule last fall that was not adopted and has already weighed in with our opposition to this latest proposal.

Here is WSAC’s statement submitted on the current proposed rule:

The proposed WAC is contrary to the plain reading of the statute, which says that employers are only responsible for continuation of benefits “[i]f required by the federal family and medical leave act….” The proposed rule goes well beyond the statutory requirement and could result in employers having to continue benefits for up to 30 weeks if an employee overlaps PFML and FMLA leave coverage by even one day. This would create a significant undue burden on employers with medical benefit costs ranging from $1,000 to $2,400 per month. WSAC respectfully requests that this proposed WAC be removed because it does not align with the current statutory requirement.