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Mayor Jenny Durkan Signs ‘Bea’s Law,’ Her Legislation to Provide City Employees Who Lose A Child Access to Paid Family Care Leave

SEATTLE (June 17, 2019) –Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today signed her legislation to expand the City of Seattle’s paid family care leave program into law. The legislation, called ‘Bea’s Law,’ will amend the Seattle Municipal Code to provide City employees who lose a child access to paid family care leave. Bea’s Law was passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this month.

“There was a loophole in our City’s laws that forced grieving parents who serve at the City to choose between mourning the loss of their child and paying their bills. No City of Seattle employee should be forced to make that decision,” said Mayor Durkan. “With Bea’s Law, we are doing what any employer should: 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 tell their story and turn their grief into lasting, positive change.”

Prior to Bea’s Law, City employees who lose a child were 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 were not eligible for paid parental leave, which is exclusively for the purpose of bonding with a new child. Therefore, a City employee was 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 had to choose between either coming to work, requesting donated sick leave, or staying home without pay.

“I am grateful that today Bea’s Law becomes law for our municipal employees. It marks an important moment for those in our City family who experience an unexpected loss of a newly born child or the loss of a domestic partner or spouse as a result of child birth complications,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Pos. 9, Citywide). “For our employees, having immediate access to four weeks of paid leave under those circumstances will relieve stress and anxiety about income to allow for time to heal.”

“No parent who gives birth and experiences the death of a newborn child or a birthing partner should have to return to work after just three days. Due to Rachel and Erin’s tireless but inspiring advocacy, Seattle is leading by example on bereavement and family leave policies that truly serve our employees and their families,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8, Citywide). “The ripple effects of baby Bea’s short life will be felt for generations, and perhaps even beyond Seattle, as Bea’s Law is inspiring other cities and states around the country to look at what we did.”

“After Bea passed, we found out that we only had three days of paid leave because of how the policy was written at that time – it just added so much to our situation. We are so moved that Bea’s Law will be there in a parent’s darkest moment when the wheels have fallen off all that seems to be reasonable and right. No parent will want to use Bea’s Law, but Bea will always be there to help,” said Rachel and Erin Alder.

This change to Seattle’s laws 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 policy at the time, Rachel did not qualify for more than three days of paid leave.