North Dakota’s Legislature Doesn’t Set Family Leave Policy for Private Businesses and That’s a Good Thing


Recently Bismarck Tribune reporter Jack Dura had a very good report about the amount of pay approved for lawmakers who miss days during the legislative session.

As I wrote previously, the amount paid really wasn’t very much, and most of the leave was for perfectly reasonable things like illness and, in one instance, a pregnancy. It’s good to know how much time at the session lawmakers are missing, so that voters can decide how they feel about it when election time rolls around, but generally it seems our lawmakers are acting prudently.

Democrats, however, have tried to put a spin on it, accusing lawmakers of taking something for themselves which is denied to North Dakota workers. Here’s House Minority Leader Josh Boschee (D-Fargo) making that point on Twitter:

Today that talking point made it into a letter to the editor of the Fargo Forum:

What disappoints me is these very same legislators don’t think paid family leave is a good idea for the people who support them and pay their salaries, the taxpayers of North Dakota. In fact, they even voted against conducting an in-depth study of how paid family leave might work in North Dakota.

Paid family leave makes sense – and it works. So if paid family leave is good enough for our state legislators, why isn’t it good enough for all working North Dakotans?

The legislature has left it up to individual employers to decide what sort of family leave to provide to workers beyond certain very broad minimums required by state and federal law. That’s as it should be. If “paid family leave….works” the convince employers of that so that they’ll implement a policy allowing for it.

Employers in North Dakota with 50 or more employees do have to comply with the federal Family Medical Leave Act which mandates at least 12 weeks of unpaid family leave. Some employers are more generous than that, though not all.

Democrats want to mandate a new minimum leave requirement that is more generous than the federal policy, but that would be a mistake. I think we’re better served letting the private sector decide their own policy, tailoring them to the realities of their specific industries.

Choice, as is almost always the case, is better than force.

By the way, when it comes to state workers, I think the Legislature should provide for a more generous family leave allowance than what the federal government provides. While I don’t think that sort of policy should be imposed by the government on the private sector, I do think it’s good policy which could be implemented for state workers.