BISMARCK, N.D. - Two years ago, some legislators looked at changes to the state's Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA policies, but ran out of time.
Representative Corey Mock says house bill 1470, which he wrote, is upholding a promise he made to a father who lost his son to suicide.
The bill would allow parents to use up to 12 weeks of leave after the death of a child.
Mock says birth and adoption of a child is already covered, so death should be as well.
"They would be able to take paid and unpaid sick leave for bereavement purposes for those first six months. No more than they would for any other circumstance. They can't extend their benefits and it doesn't give them more benefits, it would just allow them to use their current benefits for that purpose," said Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks.
No one testified against the bill. The change would only affect about 14,000 state employees.
The father who sparked this bill wasn't able to make it in because of weather, but did submit testimony.
Thank you for allowing me to testify this morning. I had every intention to be there today but Mother Nature has her own plan. As I write this, the roads are still closed.
I want to start by telling you my story.
I lost my son Tristen to Suicide on Sept 4th 2015. I woke the morning of the 4th as any other proud father and ended the day a broken man. The days that followed are blurry. Sleepless nights and busy days. Hours spent wondering why and what I could have done or did not do.
My employer at the time was sympathetic to my loss, I would never say anything less. They gave me the normal 3 day Bereavement that was standard for the loss of a loved one and fortunately my co workers donated another 6 days. After 9 days of being away from work I was expected to return to my duties as if nothing had happened.
9 days may be enough for some but it certainly was not enough for me. I suffered, and still do, from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I was a police officer for 7 years and with the death of my son, many dark memories came flooding back. I could have benefited by having some time off, as well as my employer. My mind was not on my job, and yet I was there.
Losing a child, no matter the reason, is the most gut wrenching, life altering thing anyone can go through. In a matter of months I lost my grandmother, father, and son. Losing my grandmother and father was painful but it is a natural progression of life. No parent should ever have to bury their child.
Currently FMLA covers the birth of a child, the adoption of a child, and the care of a loved one. FMLA says nothing about the loss of a child. I feel that when FMLA was first written, the loss of a child was simply overlooked. No one wants to think of this tragedy.
I am asking this committee to consider adding Parental Bereavement to the Family Medical Leave. Ultimately this needs to extend to more than just state employees but this would be a start.
After Tristen died I struggled daily. I tried to find some meaning to it all. I decided to work on Parental Bereavement because I’m not the only one that has or will lose a child. I hope that by adding Parental Bereavement parents will be able to find the help or have time to heal without the fear of losing their job.
Thank you for your time and consideration. And again I apologize for not being there today."