Getting Paid While Taking Time

The Women's Movement and the Development of Paid Family Leave Policies in the United States

Megan A. Sholar
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1295-9
Publication: Aug 16

HC: $94.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1294-2
Publication: Aug 16

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1296-6
Publication: Sep 16

252 pages
5.5 x 8.25
3 tables

Analyzing family leave policy in the United States—from the role of the women’s movement in the passage of paid leave to policymaking at the state level

Read an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).


The United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide paid family leave at the national level for either men or women. In the more than two decades since the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to expand family leave benefits nationally. However, in the United States, it is common for innovations in family policies to arise at the state level.

In her timely book, Getting Paid While Taking Time, Megan Sholar explains the development of family leave policies at both the national and state levels in the United States. She provides cogent studies of states that have passed and proposed family leave legislation, and she pays special attention to the ways in which women’s movement actors and other activists (e.g., labor unions) exert pressure on public officials to help influence the policymaking process. In her conclusion, Sholar considers the future of paid family leave policies in the United States and the chances for it ever equaling the benefits in other countries.


"Getting Paid While Taking Time is a very refreshing book: timely, thoughtful, thorough, well-referenced, well-organized, and well-written. Sholar covers important and necessary historical details and captures the complexities of state government quite well. In addition, her coverage of the women activists groups, the challenges they faced, and the strategies they employed is new and important for readers to learn. This book represents a much-needed update on the status of paid leave in the United States."
Steven K Wisensale, Professor of Public Policy, Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut

"Getting Paid While Taking Time investigates the puzzle of why the U.S. lacks a paid parental leave, being one of the few countries in the world without one. Examining both the state and national levels, and taking the long historical arc of policy-making into consideration, Sholar offers an original and persuasive account that shows how the women’s movement has influenced these policies. Sholar marshals strong evidence and sheds new light on this vitally important policy area."
Kimberly J. Morgan, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University

"Getting Paid While Taking Time focuses on a shameful aspect of American exceptionalism: the United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave for women or men.... Sholar foregrounds the history of the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) in a nicely encapsulated summary of American women's labor history.... The book provides a nice template for telling a national history while also devoting attention to rich state-level case studies. Politicians, activists, and others interested in paid family leave stand to learn a lot from Sholar's comprehensive coverage of this important area of public policy."
—Journal of American History

"The book's core objective is to highlight the role that women's organizations have played in ensuring successful passage of paid family leave policies.... Using legislative histories supplemented with archives of documents produced by women's organizations, (Sholar) offers useful historical detail on the processes that have led to the failure to pass paid parental leave at the federal level.... The primary strength of Getting Paid While Taking Time is that it offers extensive histories of paid parental leave policy at both the national and state levels. It contributes to the existing literature by highlighting the important role that women's organizations have played in policy passage. This is a great reference book for those who are looking for the most up-to-date policy developments on paid parental leave policy."
—Perspectives on Politics

"Sholar does an outstanding job of describing the rough and circuitous road to the passage of the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).... Well crafted and readable, the book is informed conceptually by the Research Network on Gender Politics and the State and by S. Laurel Weldon’s work on feminist protest and public policy.... (T)his book offers a distinctive perspective on the long road to the FMLA (with a focus on how various women’s movement agencies approached the matter and the role of key members of Congress) as well as up-to-date information on the trials of the FAMILY Act implementation across states and cities.... Researchers of women’s movement agencies and public policies will appreciate its thoughtful analysis and useful information and data."
Signs: Journal of Women and Culture in Society

"Sholar's work, based on archival research and interviews, describes the advocacy that propelled the federal legislation (of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)) and the state laws that followed.... Sholar's work is most valuable in describing the period after passage of the national law.... Her key, and most sobering, finding is that the FMLA has had little impact on gender inequality in the workplace and therefore in the home."
The Journal of Women, Politics, & Policy

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Women’s Movements and the Passage of Family Leave Policies
Chapter 2: The Passage of the National Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Chapter 3: From the FMLA to the FA
MILY Act: Family Leave Policy at the National Level since 1993 Chapter 4: Success in the States: Paid Family Leave in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York
Chapter 5: When Paid Family Leave Fails to Pass in the States: Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Hawaii
Chapter 6: The Future of Family Leave in the United States

About the Author(s)

Megan A. Sholar is a Lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program at Loyola University Chicago.