Clock ticks on parental leave policy for state workers

State employees are waiting anxiously to see if the Minnesota state Legislature will take up paid parental leave before the session ends May 22.

While the program was implemented by Governor Dayton in November, it still requires legislative approval.

“I was definitely hoping this would be there for me and it may not,” said Liz Stoneburg, who is expecting her first child May 24—only two days after the legislative session comes to an end.

Stoneburg works for the Minnesota Department of Education. She has been hoarding sick days and vacation time, and still she says she will have to go unpaid for nearly half of her maternity leave.

“We’re going to make it work, but it’s going to be really hard,” she said.

Richard  Kolodziejski with the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees says Stoneburg is better off than many, as new employees and non-birth parents have little options.

“A large portion of these employees now are going without pay,” said Kolodziejski.

Governor Mark Dayton’s office says the state will have a hard time competing for employees without paid parental leave, as many Minnesota corporations are now offering at least six weeks.

Recently, 3M Corporation announced an expansion to their parental leave policy. The St. Paul-based company now offers 10 weeks paid parental leave, and an additional 10 weeks unpaid parental leave.

Kolodziejski says MAPE polling shows 80 percent support for parental leave among Minnesota legislators on both sides of the aisle. But some Republicans worry about the price tag for such a proposal.

“A lot of these positions in state agencies aren’t being filled,” Kolodziejski said. “Employees are working longer, working harder and longer to take care of their coworkers.”

Meanwhile, Stoneburg is planning her family’s finances, expecting several weeks of unpaid leave.

“It’s almost like I’m paying a price for being in the public sector,” she said.