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Mayor Durkan Transmits ‘Bea’s Law’ to the City Council to Update City of Seattle Paid Family Care Leave Program

‘Bea’s Law’ Named in Honor of Beatrice Kathryn Alder, Daughter of City of Seattle Employee Rachel Alder

SEATTLE (May 1, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan transmitted legislation to the Seattle City Council today to update the City of Seattle’s paid family care leave program. If passed by the City Council, the new law – called ‘Bea’s Law’ – would expand the City’s paid family care leave program to cover City employees who have experienced the loss of a child.

“As it is currently written, the Seattle Municipal Code forces grieving parents to choose between mourning the loss of their child and paying their bills. No City of Seattle employee should be forced to make this decision,” said Mayor Durkan. “With Bea’s Law, we are doing what any employer should do: promising our employees that we will support them during the impossible heartache of losing a child. I am so grateful to Rachel and Erin Alder for their courage to turn their grief into positive change.”

Currently, City employees who lose a child are not eligible for paid family care leave, which requires that the City employee care for another family member. In addition, City employees who lose a child are not eligible for paid parental leave, which is exclusively for the purpose of bonding with a new child. Therefore, a City employee is forced to use paid sick or vacation time, as available, to grieve the loss of their child and manage their affairs. If the City employee does not have any paid sick or vacation time available, they must choose between either coming to work, requesting donated sick leave, or staying home without pay.

This change was first considered following the experience of Rachel Alder, a City employee, and Erin Alder. Rachel and Erin’s daughter, Beatrice “Bea” Kathryn Alder was born on November 15, 2017, and passed away 36 hours later due to medical issues. Due to the City’s current policy, Rachel did not qualify for more than three days of paid leave.

To remedy this, Bea’s Law would amend the Seattle Municipal Code to provide a City employee who loses a child access to paid family care leave.

“I am immensely grateful to Rachel and Erin Alder for sharing their deeply personal experience of grief with us. It is because of their resilience that we now advance Bea’s Law,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide). “When I sponsored the bill that expanded the City’s paid family leave benefits, I never imagined the scenario of a sudden and tragic loss of a newborn. Today, we take the first step towards fixing a shortfall in our existing benefits laws and ensure that our working parents are given paid time to heal under these circumstances. In the future, Bea’s legacy will be felt by future working parents whose needs would have gone unmet.”

“Due to the advocacy and leadership from Erin and Rachel, in memory of their daughter and in solidarity with all other families that may be in the same position, we now have long overdue change. The City’s expanded paid family care leave policy was a direct result of their commitment to meaningful policy change and extends the memory of their daughter, Bea,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide). “The City of Seattle is moving forward now to ensure no future city employee who loses a child will have to go through the same experience. It’s important for the City of Seattle to lead by example, and continue to advocate for the rights and benefits of all workers. I am forever grateful to Erin and Rachel, and their union PROTEC17, for their work to make this change possible for all families who work for the City.”

“PROTEC17 is proud to partner with Mayor Durkan, Councilmember González, Councilmember Mosqueda, and the City of Seattle on this critical advancement of the rights and dignities of public employees,” said Shaun Van Eyk, Union Representative at PROTEC17. “Expanding paid family care leave to include the loss of a child is a commonsense and compassionate step. We stand with Rachel and Erin, and the entire City of Seattle workforce in remembrance of Bea.”

Bea’s Law will be reviewed by the City Council in the coming weeks.