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Seattle Council weighs paid leave for city workers after a child's death

The Seattle City Council is expected to discuss what Mayor Jenny Durkan called “a loophole” in the city’s paid family leave policy that left one worker without paid time off when her daughter died shortly after birth.

Seattle workers could soon get paid time off after losing a child.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda, would allow city employees to access paid family care leave benefits after the death of a child.

“We want to make sure that city workers, and actually any workers, know that when they suffer that kind of severe grief that we’re going to let them have the benefits that they should have,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who sent the measure to Council last week.

Currently city employees can only take paid leave if they are caring for another family member. Employees can use paid sick or vacation time, but if that time is all used up they must either work, request donated sick time, or stay home without pay.

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The legislation was prompted by the experience of city employee Rachel Alder, whose daughter Beatrice “Bea” Kathryn Alder died 36 hours after she was born on November 15, 2017 due to medical issues. Under the city’s policy, Alder didn’t qualify for more than three days of paid leave.

“That’s wrong,” Durkan said. “It was a loophole in the law that prevented her from benefits that she otherwise would have had.”

The legislation is expected to be heard Wednesday during a 9 a.m. meeting of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, New Americans, and Education Committee.

In addition to paid family leave, Mosqueda is also pushing for city-provided child care. Mosqueda, who is pregnant with her first child, recently toured a space in City Hall that could house a daycare. She hopes to move forward with the idea by the end of the year.

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