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Pittsburgh to consider giving its workers 6 weeks of paid parental leave

| Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, 11:03 p.m.
Jennifer Presutti is the assistant director of capital at Pittsburgh's Office of Management & Budget.
Heidi Murrin | Trib Total Media
Jennifer Presutti is the assistant director of capital at Pittsburgh's Office of Management & Budget.

Jennifer Presutti went to work on the fifth floor of the City-Council Building with less than a week to go before she is due to deliver her first child.

Staying busy helped quell her nerves, she said, and let her save paid time off to bond with her newborn.

“Most of your leave is unpaid,” said Presutti, 35, of Carrick, who works in the city's finance department. “That leaves mothers to work up until pretty much their due date to save that time, accumulate more time and save up money.”

Legislation from Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, D-Carrick, would give city employees such as Presutti six weeks of paid parental leave.

Under current law, employees who take time off to be with their children can use sick leave or vacation time while relying on the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

“For many families, unpaid leave is a luxury and not an option,” Rudiak said.

She hosted a hearing on the legislation Tuesday. A preliminary vote is set for Wednesday with a final vote next week.

The proposal would apply to new mothers and fathers only among the city's 430 nonunion employees. Pittsburgh has more than 3,000 employees.

At the hearing, Todd Siegel, director of the Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission, said the policy wouldn't cost much. An average of 10 new parents among nonunion employees take leave each year, he said, and the city has no minimum staffing levels for its nonunion employees, meaning little additional pay would be needed.

Susan Frietsche, a senior staff attorney with the Women's Law Project, said unpaid leave means mothers have to decide between leaving a newborn to return to work or staying home without pay.

“That is a horrible, horrible, cruel choice, and we can't be doing that to our city employees,” Frietsche said.

Nationwide, the conversation about paid leave policies includes Democrats, women's groups and labor unions among proponents. While running for re-election in 2013, Rudiak received endorsements from SEIU 32BJ, a union that has advocated for paid sick leave.

Suzanne Collins, communications director for the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said many of its members might have paid leave policies, but the organization opposes government making paid leave mandatory for the private sector.

“It's disingenuous for a city or government to say this is an example that private sector should follow because to cover the cost they can raise taxes instead of cutting elsewhere,” she said. “Small businesses don't have that option.”

Presutti, a city employee since August 2010, said she doesn't know if the policy will pass in time for her to take advantage of it, but she's planning to take off the full 12 weeks to be with her new baby and her husband, Darin.

“I plan to work up until I feel like I can't work anymore,” she said, “but the baby might have other ideas.”

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mdaniels@tribweb.com or 412-380-8511.

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