News Release: Silverman Introduces Emergency Legislation to Protect Family Leave Benefit Payments to DC Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2021 – D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) introduced emergency legislation this week to protect paid family leave benefits to District workers who also hold short-term disability insurance plans. Since D.C.’s groundbreaking Universal Paid Leave program started paying benefits to workers in July 2020, some District insurance companies have been subtracting the money workers expect to receive from the D.C. paid leave program from the amount they pay out to claimants who have short-term disability policies.  

The Short-Term Disability Insurance Benefit Protection Emergency Act, co-introduced by Councilmembers Silverman, Christina Henderson (I-At-Large), and Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), will prohibit insurance companies from using paid leave benefits, estimated or actual, to offset their payments under short-term disability insurance plans. The bill amends both the Universal Paid Leave Act and the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices code.

D.C.’s paid family leave program and private insurance short-term disability plans both offer partial wage replacement for when a worker needs to take time off for a qualifying life event. Employers pay per worker into a Universal Paid Leave Fund, and depending on the workplace, employers and/or employees pay premiums for short-term disability plans, so workers should be able to get both. D.C.’s Universal Paid Leave law clearly allows workers to benefit from both plans, but some claimants have reported that their short-term disability insurers have offset the public insurance program benefit from the private-insurance payout.  For example, mothers who have received short-term disability benefits for their recovery from childbirth have had their short-term disability benefits reduced by the Universal Paid Leave benefit amount, even though one of these benefits is wage replacement for medical recovery and the other wage replacement for when a parent takes time off to bond with a new child.

“Especially at this challenging time, workers entitled to both benefits need this money to help them take the time away from work necessary to take care of themselves and family members,” Silverman said. “I plan to work with our insurers on a permanent version of this bill soon.”