Lee signs order granting 12-week paid family leave for state workers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a groundbreaking event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday that state workers will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or an ill family member. That will make Tennessee the first state in the nation to offer the full package of coverage under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Lee said.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that Tennessee will provide paid family leave for state employees. The Governor signed an Executive Order today directing the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to issue the new policy effective March 1.  

“Strong families make for strong communities, and I am proud that Tennessee will lead the nation in supporting our employees,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “This is an impactful investment in the state workforce and will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best workforce possible.”

While 69% of full-time working Americans believe that receiving paid parental leave is important when looking for a job, only 17% of employees across the U.S. have access to it. One additional month of paid family leave is associated with a 13% drop in infant mortality.

“Paid family leave will improve quality of life for state employees both at work and at home. I am grateful to Governor Lee and Senator Dickerson for making this a priority,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally.

“I appreciate Governor Lee’s desire to support our state employees through this initiative, and I support the idea of allowing new mothers and fathers opportunities to spend more quality time with their newly adopted or newborn children. I look forward to working with the Governor, the House and Senate, Rep. Helton and our Fiscal Review Committee to determine the best ways we can continue to strengthen our Tennessee families,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“Paid family leave for state employees builds upon our recent efforts creating safe, nurturing environments for our children, while strengthening bonds between parents and their newly adopted or newborn sons and daughters. This important benefit levels the playing field for our state departments, agencies, and the General Assembly so we can attract and retain the best and brightest employees. I applaud Governor Lee for this pro-family initiative because it supports those who work tirelessly on behalf of this state to make it the best in the entire nation,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth.

“I am pleased to sponsor this bill so our state government can continue to retain the finest employees possible,” said Chairman Steve Dickerson.

“Tennessee is proud to be a pro-family state, and this initiative strengthens our commitment to families and is a step in the right direction. We have all experienced scenarios where we have had to choose between work and family. This initiative ensures our state employees will no longer have to make that difficult choice, and I am honored to serve as co-prime sponsor of this legislation in the House,” said Representative Esther Helton.

This new policy confirms Tennessee state government’s position as a pro-family employer while also improving its ability to effectively serve taxpayers by reducing turnover rates for high performing employees and reducing long-term state health care costs.

The expanded paid family leave will apply to all state executive branch employees subject to the TEAM Act and will not include a mandate on private business. Included in this policy is parental leave, making Tennessee the tenth state employer to offer benefits to parents in addition to the federal government. Qualifying events will be consistent with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new policy will go into effect on March 1 to provide sufficient time for the Department of Human Resources to draft policy guidance, train managers, and ensure accurate tracking of time and leave.

43 Responses to Lee signs order granting 12-week paid family leave for state workers

  • Avatar
    Jerry McDonough says:

    Lee offers to take more illegals and now this. I’m beginning to regret my vote for him.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      BEGINNING!?!?!? BEGINNING!?!?!? Jerry, you are truly a saint among men with the patience to prove it.

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        MARLE says:

        This is the idiotic brain child of Trump’s wanna-be wife/ actual child~ with whom he agrees. Before you condemn Lee for this misguided waste of money, first thank the Donald.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          MARLEE, I am not obsessed with Trump. He doesn’t dominate my political life. He is an unattractive, uninformed New York blow-heart who I am going to vote for who will win Tennessee by thirty points. END OF STORY.

          Now we have one of our precious Republican congressional seats that we can move about fifteen Heritage percent to the right if conservatives can get the right candidate and give him the support he needs. The First District race, that’s what should rivet our attention.

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            MARLE says:

            YOU may not be obsessed with Trump but the candidates you support A-R-E. And the lack of push back on stupid stuff like this, at the Federal level, says one of 2 things: either they are A-ok with it, or they are afraid of speaking out against him. Neither is good.

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          Eddie White says:

          The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993.

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            Lenny says:

            The first no-fault divorce law in the United States was signed by so-called great family values man, Ronald Reagan. Christian… Haha!

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            MARLE says:

            UNPAID time off and your job is held. That is what the Clinton bill did back in the day. Now 2 gov employee parents will get 6 months off with pay.

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      John says:

      What is wrong with either? You must be one of those “Evangelicals” that ranks the Republican Party higher than Jesus.

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    Diana Page says:

    Such a good step. Hopefully, other employers will follow suit.

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      Perry Aubric says:

      Of course it’s a good step. The comments from the usual suspects on the rightward fringes of society who post incessantly on this site, you would think 1) that any benefit for a working person is a horror that should never be tolerated, or 2) that Lee is wanting to bankrupt the state by being so “generous.”

      Instead, family leave is a basic benefit of minimal actual cost that will help attract competent, productive employees to the state, where they can better serve to public. It is fundamentally pro-family, pro-life and in the public interest. It has little to no cost.

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        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Really? Then I dare say we are overstaffed throughout the state bureaucracy if employees can take three months off and never be missed every time they become a new parent or there is a sickness in the family. Of course, government units are notoriously overstaffed anyway, so this should come as no surprise. On the other hand, if the Tennessee bureaucracy is not overstaffed then we will have to increase our staffing to make up for a constant level absences do to this new program. I wonder what kind of checks our gimlet-eyed government human resources departments are going to put in place to check for “ill family members” that will bring about eligibility for paid leave?

        Heck, what does it all matter. So long as politicians feel good about themselves and the Perrys and Beatrices congratulate them on being bien-pensant kind of guys the taxpayers should just shut-up and pay-up.

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          Perry Aubric says:

          By all means, let’s punish anyone who actually wants to work in state government. No one who takes a state job deserves any kind of benefits, should never get a raise, should have minimal or even no insurance coverage, should be tainted and despised as “bureaucrats” or hangers on whenever possible. Let a state trooper know how much you despise him and resent any kind of decent pay or benefits for him next time you see him. I just want to “feel good” according to the hubristic Stuart. I guess I just don’t know how to put down people who have a job and want to spend time with their newborns. Your wife has cancer? Too damn bad. Get back to cleaning the floors at the State Capitol. We all need that ice in the veins like Stuart.

          By the way Stuart. I can stop at this site every couple of days or at night. What kind of job do you have that lets you monitor this site 24/7. And is this really your main platform for your screwy opinions?

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Pay and benefits in an economy that produces the most wealth for the most people should be determined by the intersection of the supply of labor and demand for that labor not by what Perry and his ouija board determine as “decent.” Having people earn as much as a free people are able to get in the market place while having employers pay as little as they can is the essence of a free market place for labor in a free country. If you want to subsidize workers to get more than that then pull out that big Perry checkbook and have Beatrice Shaw, Diana Page, et. al. join you and do so by all means, surely you know how to do that, and please leave the rest of us the hell alone. Cancer is not cured in twelve weeks. Newborns don’t grow up in twelve weeks. This is a needless “feel good project” on the dime of people who aren’t you and since I’m not you I don’t like it one bit.

            To answer your question, which I can understand you asking. I am happy to say that I no longer have, want or need a job. My interests almost exclusively concern the stock market and politics so I am at my computer most of the time. Naturally, I enjoy chatting with people about my interests. I find the commentators on this blog generally well informed, witty, and respectful so I am content to converse with people just like yourself without being limited as to keystrokes. etc. OK?

          • Avatar
            Perry Aubric says:

            Well, you and I have something in common. I retired at age 50 and live off my investments as well. I am interested in politics but don’t obsess over it.

            But it seems we differ in other ways. I don’t despise people who are poor, I don’t mind paying my fair share (and I pay plenty) for either national defense or public assistance programs and a lot in between. You got yours and to hell with everybody else, but I am willing to bet I have more than you do. I actually support civil protections for gay rights and women’s choice. I respect working people, because I was one and came from working people. I find theoretical sophistry and extremism like yours damaging. Fascist ignoramuses like Trump and communist blowhards like Sanders scare me. I think personal decency in a public officials is important, and immoral people like Donald Trump and Bill Clinton and Glen Casada and… (well, it’s a distressingly long list, all political stripes, can match you D for R all day long) can be replaced by good people with similar philosophies. I know you don’t care how disgusting a person might be as long as they score well on your ridiculous right-wing think tank ratings.

            So we will disagree here from time to time. But don’t go there with me with your attempt to dig deep superior in done way. You’re not.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            We differ alright in the following ways but only because you are well to the left of me so you have that authoritarian, self-righteous streak so characteristic of people who dwell on your side of the aisle:

            1. Unlike you, I don’t draw conclusions about the feelings of people I have never met or spoken to, especially not in a critical way that seeks to paint them in a bad light compared to myself.

            2. Unlike you, it never occurs to me whether “I have more. . .”, less, or about the same as somebody else because as Hillary so poetically put it, “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE”! between two people who are simply chatting about the affairs of the day.

            3. Unlike you, I don’t think that because I can spout off numerous policy positions that I adhere to that makes me any more moral, upstanding or generally a nicer guy than someone who opposes those policy positions.

            4. Unlike you, I don’t call people “fascists,” or “Communists” unless I have clear evidence that they believe in fascism or communism because moral, upstanding, nice guys don’t do that sort of thing.

            5. Unlike you, I am not so intolerant and arrogant so as to quickly condemn people because they engage in private conversations that I wouldn’t engage in, or behave in ways different from me.

            6. Unlike you, I am realistic enough know that politics is a “gotcha” game so I am very slow to draw conclusions about a public figure’s “decency” and/or “morality” based on the fevered accusation of his opponents as echoed continuously by that opponent’s sympathetic media, and finally,

            7. Unlike you, I never had the feeling that someone who simply disagreed with me was “. . .go[ing] there with me with your attempt[ing] to dig deep superior in done way” even if I felt more secure in my understanding of what the hell you are talking about.

            Isn’t this fun? Let’s continue to exchange observations about politics and life, but Perry I’m sorry, no, I wouldn’t want you to marry my sister (if I had one).

  • Avatar
    Beatrice Shaw says:

    Absolutely!! 12 weeks is great….sometimes we need more so I hope there is still work going on for an additional 12 weeks, but this is great. I have really begun to think this Governor cares about people and not money.

  • Avatar
    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    Bill Lee, truly a profile in coverage. Only seven more years of this. Thanks guys.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    Why not 51 weeks? ? ? ? ? ? Yikes !

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    Not Stuart Anderson says:

    A policy that saves money, promotes health, helps employees, increases retention and is family-friendly. Who could have seen that coming from today’s GOP? What’s next? Minimum wage laws? Pro-union policies? Expanding Medicaid?

    • Avatar
      MARLE says:

      How bout giving them paid “vacation” til the kid’s in college. That’d be the Bestest employee retention policy Ever, right????? Shoooooot. Why not go for broke~ literally.

      • Avatar
        Lenny says:

        How much more does it cost the state? Can you read a full article before commenting? It’s $0. Now how much do your vouchers for illegals and other poor people in Memphis and Nashville cost? Hundreds of millions in the first year.

        • Avatar
          MARLE says:

          So Lenny…..a person can take 12 weeks off and it costs nothing to replace him in the workplace. If that were true then he should be fired.

          • Avatar
            Lenny says:

            They could take 12 weeks off before this. Now the money stays with the employee – probably making $28,000-$40,000 a year in the first place – instead of being freed up for the Executive service bonus pool. The money didn’t go back to the taxpayers or even to any state programs. It stayed in the salary/bonus pool. You realize all those Commissioner and deputy positions appointed by the campaign get paid more than their publicly stated salary, don’t you?

    • Avatar
      Beatrice Shaw says:

      Expanding Medicaid and increasing the minimum wage, in my opinion, are mandatory things to be done by Government. I was appalled when I moved here and realized Tennessee had not expanded Medicaid. A minimum wage of $17.50 per hour would still be tough to raise a family on, but it is a good place to start.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Why did a poor bleeding heart like you move to Tennessee anyway? You must have known that you would become a member of a relatively small bleeding heart minority. I am “appalled” every time Tennessee attracts businesses from a liberal state imagining how many “Beatrices” will be coming in tow.

        • Avatar
          Silence Dogood says:

          The Beatrice persona is not a “real” person. The statements made by this fictional persona are only designed to provoke disagreement. I.E. Beatrice is a Troll. You can look back over the comments it makes.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        Beatrice….responsible people are not raising a family on the minimum wage. We provide each American with 14 years of education at approx $10K per year. If your prospects for a life beyond minimum wage is Dim….then don’t enslave the rest of us to meet your family obligations.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Lee was never a Republican in any meaningful sense other than voting. No Record Candidates for high office aren’t anything meaningful politically. They are simply narcissistic plutocrats who conservatives are occasionally stupid enough to support.

  • Avatar
    MICKIE DAVIS says:

    Wonderful. Our taxpayer dollars at work.
    Government jobs have many more benefits and better insurance that private sector jobs. Better vacation, better insurance, better sick leave. What is wrong with this picture?

    They don’t need “retention.” People fight and pull all kinds of strings to get the cheesy gubment jobs. There is no lack of applicants for any government job.

    It is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to fund people’s reproductive choices. If they CHOOSE to have a kid, then they can plan for it. The financial responsibility is THEIRS, not MINE.

  • Avatar
    Leslie Parsley says:

    Telling that all those who object are members of the male species. Not surprising, though. Studies show that it is the women who are the caretakers while the men duck and run.

    • Avatar
      Lenny says:

      They’re just angry old men looking for a scapegoat to blame for their sad, pathetic lives. It’s zero cost to the state. They comment before reading.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I hardly think that having eighteen years if not twenty-one years of the legal obligation to support the child no matter what outrages m’lady engages in is either ducking or running.

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    Cannoneer2 says:

    I saw this on the news, while I was far away from a computer. I knew the usual types would show up to go “WAAAAHHHHH!!! WE CAN’T AFOOOOORRDDDD THISSS!!!” If it only applied to the Governor’s staff, or legislators, or other marginally useful political types in Tennessee state government, it would have been just dandy. Just don’t do something crazy like that for the little guy.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      As a “usual type” who shows up around here Cannoneer I have to say you’ve got, at least me, all wrong. I do not draw the distinction that you have outlined. I don’t think any employer, private or government, should pay employees more than is necessary in the free market in order to attract the quality employee necessary to do the job. It’s not “dandy” to use my tax money to pay ANYONE more than necessary whether the excess is due to union/government coercion, or crony arrangements.

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        Cannoneer2 says:

        That wasn’t aimed directly or solely at you, rest assured. I just think that the point needs to be made (and in a strong manner!) that Tennessee state employees have been given the short end of the stick for many years. The “crony” arrangements have been and seem to continue to be applied to Tennessee’s high level officials. Why, for example, do we have the nation’s highest paid Secretary of State and highest paid Attorney General?

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          Cannoneer2 says:

          Disclaimer should be added. I haven’t worked for state government for over two decades now, so this doesn’t involve padding my own paycheck.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Briefly, I don’t think in terms of short or long end of sticks. The length of sticks in employment should be determined by the free market in which employees try to get as much as they can and employers try to give as little as they can given the qualifications they need in employee.
          We have a great Secretary of State and I terribly “wet” Attorney General who should be elected rather than appointed but as to why they are the highest paid I haven’t a clue but it is a good question.

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    Donna Locke says:

    Twelve weeks is ridiculous. And of course it will cost the taxpayers to pay both the leaves and the replacements. Remember, liberals can’t do math.

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