Kentucky got a grade of 'D-' in a new report analyzing how each state supports, or doesn't support, new parents in terms of leave time and job protection. Only three states in the nation provide paid family leave.
McKenzie Cantrell, employment attorney with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, said a good first step for the Commonwealth would be to expand family medical leave protections to smaller businesses.
"Keeping their workers happy and more productive," said Cantrell. "Giving them some more flexibility and keeping highly motivated and talented employees."
The report from the National Partnership for Women and Families was released in conjunction with the White House Summit on Working Families. Cantrell was an attendee.
She said Kentucky deserved a better grade for the protections it provides to pregnant and nursing mothers, and for the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.
Kentucky had plenty of company when it came to poor grades, according to one of the report's authors, Vicki Shabo.
"The state with the highest grade is California, which received an 'A-'," said Shabo. "But a striking 17 states receive an 'F.' They do nothing at all, beyond what federal law provides."
Cantrell added Kentucky could help working families, and in turn itself, by raising the minimum wage.
"People who earn higher wages," said Cantrell, "have less stress in the home and their children do better in school. Their children are happier and they have less stress."
A bill to increase Kentucky's minimum wage passed the state House earlier this year but died in the Senate. In Congress, there is proposed legislation, known as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, to establish a national paid program for family and medical leave.