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Best state in America: California, for its many mom-friendly policies

Working mom.

Working mom. Photo Credit: iStock

On May 10, 1913, a congressman from Alabama introduced a House resolution asking his fellow lawmakers to wear white flowers to honor mothers for being "the greatest source of our country's strength and inspiration." Within a year, it was official: The second Sunday of May was designated as Mother's Day.

Moms may be a source of strength, but even they need help to succeed. And nowhere is the constellation of mom-friendly policies brighter than in California, the best state for mothers.

"Having the laws in place that recognize mothers' roles both as workers and as caregivers, that's very important," says Liz Watson, director of Workplace Justice for Women and senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center. Moms are the primary breadwinners in roughly two out of five households nationwide, she notes, so employee rights are crucial.

At $9, California's minimum wage is well above the federal minimum of $7.25. And the state's women earn about as much as their male counterparts: Only three states have smaller gender wage gaps.

The state also stands alone in requiring companies to provide both paid sick leave and paid family leave. (It is one of only five to offer either.) California is one of eight states that require employers to pay workers a minimum amount for a day's work, even if they are sent home early, and the only state to mandate extra pay for employees serving split shifts (e.g., working mornings and evenings with afternoons off), according to the law center.

California also goes above and beyond in providing health care for mothers. Medi-Cal, the state's Medicare equivalent, covers breast pumps and lactation consultants. And employers must provide accommodations to pregnant workers in the same way they do for disabled workers, Watson notes.

Of course, not everything is perfect. California ranks in the middle of the pack when it comes to teen pregnancy and the share of women living in poverty. But, all things considered, California's array of policies supporting moms sets it apart.

Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Washington Post's state and local policy blog.


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