Simotas Hosts Free Seminar on New Paid Family Leave Law

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas speaking at the free seminar on the new paid family leave law. Photo: by Alexia Makrigiannis, courtesy of the Office of Assemblymember Simotas

ASTORIA – Assemblymember Aravella Simotas hosted a free seminar on September 14 for pregnant women and expecting parents to help them negotiate and interact more effectively with their employers and health insurance companies. The seminar armed the people who attended with the information they need to exercise their rights to paid family leave and health insurance coverage for prenatal care.

“I am committed to helping pregnant women and new parents navigate laws and understand their rights to protect their jobs and the health of their new babies. We need healthy families to be a healthy community,” said Assemblymember Simotas.

Alex Berke and Rosa Alberti of the woman-owned law firm Berke-Weiss and co-creators of the Pregnancy Project were the presenters at the seminar. The team provided vital information on how to tell your boss you’re pregnant, how to ask for an accommodation at work, how to use benefits under the state’s new Paid Family Leave law, and health insurance issues. Ms. Berke’s law firm launched the Pregnancy Project as a way to improve the lives of working mothers-to-be and working parents.

“Too many pregnant women do not understand their rights to take leave and use their health insurance,” said Berke. “Our Pregnancy Project seminar helps pregnant women and their families understand their rights and empowers them to have necessary conversations with their employers and health insurers. Thank you, Assemblymember Simotas for hosting us!”

Assemblymember Simotas, Berke, and Alberti were joined by Rasel Rahman, a Director at the City Human Rights Commission’s Queens Community Service Center. Rahman explained the protections for families under the NYC Human Rights Law, which makes it illegal to discriminate because of a woman’s pregnancy in the workplace, in housing or in any place of public accommodation.

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens provided the space where the seminar was held.

The 2016 Paid Family Leave law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. The law will provide job protection and paid leave for new parents, for employees who need to care for a loved one with a serious health condition, and to help with family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

In 2015 the state enacted legislation sponsored by Assemblymember Simotas that made pregnancy a qualifying event for getting health insurance outside the designated enrollment periods. This change to the law now enables women to gain access to prenatal care they might not otherwise have.

Simotas began serving in the State Legislature in January 2011 and represents the 36th Assembly District of western Queens. She has a five-year old daughter, Eleni Evangeline, who was born during her second year in office.