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Guam workers would get time off to grieve under new bill

Senator Régine Biscoe Lee

Senator Régine Biscoe Lee

Finding a measure which could receive bi-partisan support, the 34th Guam Legislature has passed Senator Régine Biscoe Lee’s bill to extend unpaid, job-protected leave to grieving employees. The vote was nearly unanimous. Only Senator Michael F.Q. San Nicolas voted nay.

Once Bill 117-34 (COR) is signed into law by the governor, as is expected, the Guam Family and Medical Leave Act will include bereavement as a qualifying event for which an employee can seek time off from his or her employer .

“The passage of this law is welcome news for both Guam’s employees and employers,” Biscoe Lee said. “No longer will employees face the conflict of taking needed time to mourn or ensuring they will have a job afterwards. Likewise, employers will retain valuable employees who will have more to give after they’ve been provided time to grieve and manage the logistics of putting a loved one to rest.”

The law provides covered employees with up to two weeks of bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member.

“This bereavement leave bill represents Guam’s tradition of family values in a time when federal efforts to address bereavement leave have fallen short,” Biscoe Lee said.

Efforts to amend the federal statute regarding bereavement leave have not yet passed in the U.S. Congress. Most recently, S.528, known as the Parental Bereavement Act of 2017, was introduced in the U.S. Senate to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, to entitle an eligible employee to bereavement leave. Oregon has bereavement leave under state law with protections similar to Bill 117-34 (COR).

The bill was co-sponsored by Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje and Senators. Thomas C. Ada, William M. Castro, Louise B. Muna, Telena Cruz Nelson and Mary Camacho Torres.

The Legislature also passed a related measure, Biscoe Lee’s Bill 118-34 (COR), which clarifies the size of employer for which the Guam Family Medical Leave Act applies. Whereas the act previously provided two conflicting numbers of employees in defining the size of employer for which the act applies — 12 and 25 — the act now will clearly state that it applies to employers of 20 or more employees.

“[This] will cover the majority of employees on Guam without causing harm to the 81 percent of small businesses employing 19 employees or less,” the bill states, citing data from the 2012 Economic Census for Island Areas on their General Statistics by Kind of Business and Employment Size of Establishments for Guam released on Sept. 29, 2015.


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