Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book (D-Davie) and Representative Hillary Cassel (D-Dania Beach) have filed legislation to protect paid family leave for all state employees who give birth, even in cases of stillbirth. Book filed SB 576 in response to the case of a Washington D.C. public school teacher who was unacceptably denied paid leave following the stillbirth of her daughter.
“Paid family leave is critical for ALL mothers, regardless of the circumstances of their child’s birth,” says Leader Lauren Book, mother of five-year-old twins. “If you have given birth, you deserve time to heal. We are going to protect that for State employees.”
A strong advocate for women, children, and families across the state, Leader Book has been successful in her advocacy to eliminate sales tax on diapers through June 2023 and to expand Medicaid twice for new moms and vulnerable babies.
“When a mother is forced to say goodbye and make plans to bury her baby instead of bringing her baby home — still struggling with postpartum hormones, with her milk coming in, with the physical trauma of birthing a child, and the emotional pain of this great loss — there is no reason to deny her paid leave,” says Rep. Cassel. “This is a bipartisan issue and a compassionate, family-first policy that puts the physical and mental health of mothers first.”
This systemic issue came to light when District of Columbia Public Schools denied first grade math and science teacher Elizabeth O’Donnell paid family leave in 2021 because she could not provide a birth certificate for her stillborn daughter, Aaliyah, delivered at seven months. Despite explanation of the circumstances and documentation – including a death certificate – O’Donnell was denied paid leave and told that her stillbirth did not qualify. Many women have also come forward with similar heart wrenching stories.
Under current Florida law, all state employees are entitled to paid family leave following the birth of a child. Book and Cassel’s bill will protect this right in cases where a child is stillborn.
“This bill will ensure mothers of stillborn children receive paid family leave if they are employed by the State of Florida,” says Book. “Situations like this are hard enough, and the State should not make them any more difficult.”
This is Leader Book’s third year filing this legislation to fight for the rights of Florida families and state workers.