Living and working in America ain’t easy. From the abysmal federal minimum wage to our persistent gender pay gap, sometimes it feels like we just can’t get ahead. But there’s hope! Some states have taken it upon themselves to go the extra mile and make themselves especially hospitable to people with, you know, jobs and livelihoods and families. So in honor of Labor Day, think about how awesome it would be to live and work in one of these super human-friendly places. (You’re welcome. Er, I mean, you can thank us later.)
Great place to visit. Even greater place to live, especially if you live there already. The cost of living in Cali is steep, yes, but the benefits are tough to ignore. For example, if you, like most people in America, get sick every once in awhile,California is one of only four states (count ‘em, four) nationwide that has a statewide paid sick leave policy (with one more – Vermont – going into effect next year!). People who work part-time can earn up to nine paid sick days each year, and even better, those days can be used to take care of sick or injured loved ones, too.
California is also one of only two states to pass a minimum wage policy that actually reaches $15. But don’t pack too quickly. That increase won’t take effect until 2022. In the meantime, rejoice in California’s paid family leave law and the new statewide boost to make sure it pays enough that people can actually afford to use it to care for their new babies or family members in need. California also now has one of the strongest equal pay laws in the nation. Pretty sweet, right?
Massachusetts is kind of crushing it right now. They have the highest state minimum wage in the country at $10 per hour — $11 next year. (Only D.C. is higher.) They have a statewide paid sick day law, one that covers care for you or a family member and includes paid safe time to address the psychological, physical or legal impact of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Massachusetts women also have the third highest annual earnings in the country. On average, the pay gap closes to 19 cents for all women in Massachusetts, and could narrow even more in the coming years thanks to the state’s new equal pay law. Just this summer, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to prohibit employers from asking about salary history. The new law also requires equal pay for “comparable work.” Can your paycheck say, winning?
The cost of living still leaves a lot something to be desired, but if you’ve got a baby on the way (or ever want to enter that higher state called parenthood), this state is your spot. Just this year, New York passed the most generous paid family leave law in the entire country, giving new parents up to 12 weeks of paid time off to bond with Baby. You can also use it to care for a seriously ill family member.
But before you pack up the moving van, make sure you read the fine print: the new law doesn’t kick in until 2018, when new parents get eight paid weeks off, and it’ll take until 2021 until New Yorkers are guaranteed the full 12. But let’s be real: eight weeks is better than the zero weeks parents get in most other states. And the opportunity to spend three months with your brand new kiddo: now that’s priceless. New York also has a $15 an hour minimum wage that will be fully phased in by the end of 2018. The Women’s Equality Agenda, signed into law in the Empire State last year, included important updates to New York’s equal pay laws, and if you’re in New York City, you have guaranteed paid sick days to care for yourself or your family members and publicly funded pre-K for your four year old. Not bad, not bad at all.
Okay, it’s technically not a state, but some good people are working on that. That aside, if you’re looking for equal pay for equal work, ladies, DC should be home sweet home. In our nation’s capital, women make 90 cents to every man’s dollar, meaning it tops the list of places in the U.S. where women get paid most equally. (Don’t you hate love that we’re still celebrating a 10-cent wage gap?) To sweeten the deal, DC policy also provides up to seven paid sick days for workers, including tipped employees. Earlier this year, the D.C. Council approved lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and took a notable step toward a higher minimum wage for tipped workers, too. Now, if they could pass that 16-week paid family leave bill they’ve been kicking around, families would be flocking. Anyone who’s looking for a sizable stake in a workforce made up of mostly parents anyway should take note: healthy work/family policies are where it’s at.
Apparently, New Englanders’ progressive values aren’t just for show–they’re for real. Connecticut is a hot spot if you can appreciate a paycheck that doesn’t bring pay gap baggage to the relationship. It’s also a great place to get sick (if you must). Connecticut is one of a mere handful of states that allows workers to earn paid time off to get better, seek medical care or–quite possibly best of all–care for a sick loved one. Connecticut also looks out for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, providing paid “safe” days for workers to recover fully. That’s not a little deal! And wait until you hear about the plan they have for paid family leave! It’s not a reality just yet, but if advocates have their way, it’s already in the bag for the next legislative session. Connecticut, here we come!
These five states are far from perfect. Although, we totally support you gushing about their progress whenever your friendly, local elected officials are around. Now go! Make your state legislature jealous, people.