NJEA members Jackie Mancinelli and George Kemery from Eastern Education Association testified on Feb. 16 to the Assembly on A-5084, a bill that would expand the state’s family leave act to include grieving the loss of a child due to the death of the child, miscarriage, stillbirth or termination.
In response to the lack of support and resources available to grieving families, Mancinelli and Kemery created a nonprofit called Start Healing Together to help families like theirs. They support educators experiencing pregnancy loss and infertility and they advocate for rights in the workplace, such as the passage of A-5084.
The education profession consists of a 76% female workforce, but current laws often fail to recognize or respect the needs of working women. “My colleague, Jackie, spoke of how her right to paid leave was denied due to ‘not caring for another,’” said Kemery. “Her husband though, under current statutes, would qualify as he would be caring for her. This is an unfortunate truth that needs to be addressed immediately. We are grateful that it is being advocated for by Assemblywoman Speight and the cosponsors of this bill.”
Assemblywoman Speight and cosponsors of A-5084 have put forth the bill in response to the need to support families in New Jersey that are grieving the loss of a child. The bill will also allow leave in the event that an adoption is unsuccessful or a fertility treatment is unsuccessful, especially in cases like intrauterine insemination and assisted reproductive technology.
Under the “Temporary Disability Benefits Law,” this bill would allow a member to take temporary disability leave benefits up to 21 days following the date of the event which is the reason for bereavement, and up to seven days for events in which the circumstances would otherwise have been covered by disability or family leave.
“Although I carried my son for 8 months, had an emergency C-section delivery, and experienced the postpartum period, the state of New Jersey did not see me as a mother,” said Mancinelli. “In fact, when I asked about paid leave benefits, I was told by a state employee that since I was not caring for another, I was only caring for myself, and I no longer qualified.”
The state of New Jersey is one of just 13 states that offers paid family leave, yet not a single state offers paid leave protection for bereaved parents. New Jersey is working hard to be the safest place in the country to give birth to a baby. However, little is being done for families who are unsuccessful in building their families. The statistics share that 1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage and 1 in 8 couples experience infertility.
Should New Jersey pass the bill, it would be the first state in the Union to codify common sense legislation to protect its mothers and families suffering from pregnancy loss and infertility issues. “I believe that this bill is a foundational step in addressing and protecting this prevalent, yet largely silent health issue.” said Kemery.
“New Jersey has the chance to be a pioneer and advocate for its most vulnerable constituents.” stated Mancinelli. “I hope that our legislators can recognize how powerful this bill can be for our state.”