The bill the council passed will offer two weeks’ leave only to those employees who lose a child under the age of 21, including stillbirths.
The bill was inspired by Elizabeth O’Donnell, a D.C. public school teacher who raised awareness of the city’s lack of leave for parents who lose a child after her daughter Aaliyah Denise was stillborn at seven months.
O’Donnell said she sought eight weeks of paid family leave, permitted to new mothers by city policy, to recover physically and to mourn. But the school district denied her request because she had no birth certificate for her daughter.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) responded to O’Donnell’s story by suggesting the legislation to expand bereavement time for such losses.
Some advocates opposed that option, saying mothers of stillborn children should receive the full parental leave granted to other new parents.
But the council sided with Bowser. On Tuesday, they limited the expanded bereavement leave to the loss of a child rather than other relatives.
“People need time to grieve and heal to come to terms with this life-changing circumstance and be able to keep going,” council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who introduced the bill, said Tuesday. “It’s also a difficult policy decision for us to make, what is the line [while] also being within our budget.”
Silverman said she would work to find money in the budget to expand bereavement leave for other losses in the future.