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October 29, 2014 11:38 AM   Subscribe

 
The takeaway from all of this: employers in the U.S. do not care about mothers of young children at all....

1) They care about the fathers even less. A coworker of mine had twins a couple of years ago, and he had to use vacation time for the family bonding period.

2) All of this is different, at my university, if you're a faculty member. Everything she said is true for staff, but faculty (both moms and dads) get a full quarter of paid leave, as well as a reduced workload during their first quarter back.

3) In sum, there is a hierarchy. Woe to you if you're near the bottom of it. (As with all things American.)
posted by mudpuppie at 11:57 AM on October 29, 2014 [14 favorites]


One of my favorite lines in movie history is, "the yuppie Nuremberg defense" from Thank You For Smoking, re: "gotta pay the mortgage". Seems to me that, "I'm sorry, that's the policy" is pretty much the same thing.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2014 [23 favorites]


If you are able to do so, leaving the United States for a country that has real parental leave policies is not a bad idea. We weren't able to do it before my daughter was born, but if we ever decide we want another (I figure we've got 3 or 4 years, max, to make that decision) then we're out of here. Not going through that again. I want to raise my kids somewhere that actually cares about me raising my kids. As opposed to pretending that kids and families are important but treating them like an unwanted burden, as the author says, which is probably as much as we're likely to get here.

The sad thing is that even in countries with real parental leave, there is widespread and pervasive hiring discrimination against women who are of childbearing age. No one likes to talk about it, but it's real, and it's particularly bad in scientific careers in the countries we're thinking about. But that's still better than the way the USA does it, which is to discriminate against women AND not provide substantial paid leave.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:58 AM on October 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


That sucks. Feeling very lucky my employer gives you disability during childbirth recovery and then you can use accrued leave to cover the end of your 12 weeks. 12 weeks still feels really short when you have a newborn (like I do now), though; wish I had at least 6 months.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:02 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why her FMLA didn't start after she used up her sick days.
posted by bleep at 12:04 PM on October 29, 2014


My wife's place of work has one of the most generous policies I've encountered. Sick leave is usable and because of the way their short-term disability is structured she was able to make a claim there as well. She got 12 weeks. And you know? It still seemed so early to be handing our kids off to a daycare.

The fact that the above seems to be the best-case scenario (and all of my wife's baby buddies on Facebook report much worse situations for their work) is just appalling.
posted by selfnoise at 12:05 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Bob was planning on using FMLA for this specific purpose when the sprog comes. Time for plan B.
posted by BobtheThief at 12:06 PM on October 29, 2014


Yup. A lot of my friends are having kids now. I hear similar stories from friends of mine all the time. Mostly it's trying to figure out how to afford to take time off unpaid a as they've only got a bank of 2-3 weeks because their employer doesn't carry over vacation time. Which I suppose is better than nothing. Then there was the person in a less than 50 person small company which her employer couldn't decide what to do until the very last weeks before her due date.

Of course some have paid maternity leave as part of their benefits package, but it never lasts the full 12 weeks.

The hard part though is hearing how distraught they are about going back to work at 3 months. As childfree, I never really realized just how horrible a thing you're asking mothers to do. 3 months is far to young to ask mothers to leave their infants in the car of strangers (most of the time).

It's really no wonder women decide to leave their companies post maternity leave. Companies are such dicks about it, no wonder new mothers find staying their unpalatable. 2 weeks and out.

I've often said I want to move to a country with good maternity leave not for myself, but as a sign in living in a civilized country.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:08 PM on October 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


BobtheThief: "Mrs. Bob was planning on using FMLA for this specific purpose when the sprog comes. Time for plan B."

Wasn't Plan B for the day after?

Seriously though, I fucking hate our laws/rules in the US regarding sick leave, pregnancy and health in general. Facebook/Apple et al paying child-bearing age women to freeze their embryos so those little fleshbags don't interfere with the almighty Zuckerprofit is just emblematic of our whole attitudes towards workers.
posted by symbioid at 12:10 PM on October 29, 2014 [22 favorites]


To expand on my previous comment I don't understand why this didn't happen:
October 1: Baby born
October 1-x: "Hello I am calling in sick. I am too sick to come in." Not a lie, valid use of sick days.
October x+1: "Hello, I'll be out for the next 12 weeks on FMLA. I would like to cash in my vacation days."
posted by bleep at 12:11 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sick leave is usable and because of the way their short-term disability is structured she was able to make a claim there as well. She got 12 weeks. And you know? It still seemed so early to be handing our kids off to a daycare.

Us too, although the disability payments were sort of pitiful (I think it covered our insurance premium plus maybe enough for some groceries). We were lucky to have a small buffer where my in-laws (both teachers; it was summer) took care of their grandbaby full-time right after mrs ozzy went back to work, though, which was helpful.

Still, 12 weeks is an amazingly short time. The adversarial employers vs. mothers thing is deranged.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I feel like if she quits, she should name this organization. Name them and shame them. Fucking ridiculous that she can't use her accrued leave. (I would probably name them even if I was planning on staying, but I understand why she's not.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:14 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have a good friend who works in the same university system as I do and had a kid last year. She's still angry about the leave fuck-ups she dealt with. To our institution's credit, though, it does have a gap leave system in place for those who aren't eligible for FMLA due to not working at the intuition long enough--and it has parental leave not maternity leave.

The fact that you have to use all of your leave during FMLA, sick and vacation--and you use do this right when you are about to give birth to a small being with a super weak immune system!--has never stopped blowing our California-raised minds. And then you can claim short-term disability but only if you paid for that policy. Then you move onto unpaid leave (the actual FMLA).

I know California's leave isn't awesome but my god it's better than the other 49 states combined.

I just don't understand why paid maternity leave isn't a federal law in the US (note to those eager to explain: that's not quite true. I do know but it fills me with so much rage that I prefer not too think too deeply about it). It's such a short-sighted and anti-family policy.
posted by librarylis at 12:16 PM on October 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Arguing over a 15 or 20 vs 12 week maternity leave is just fighting for scraps. The regulatory situation for parental leave in the US is barbaric.
posted by GuyZero at 12:17 PM on October 29, 2014 [23 favorites]


Wow, she qualified for FMLA through her university/college employer? Must not have been a state university, then she really would have been up a crick.

bleep - sick days or PTO days may have other restrictions. In private industry, it's been my experience that if you have separate vacation and sick days, you cannot put them up against each other.

It also sounds as if she didn't have access to short and long term disability coverage. At the private companies I was employed with, we had a "waiting period" of a week (5 bus or 7 whole days) that we had to take unpaid, sick, or vacation before short term disability (pregnancy as certifying condition, or childbirth, depending on how hard the pregnancy was bed rest wise) kicked in.

longdaysjourney - maybe after she gets tenure.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:17 PM on October 29, 2014


Good thing she could carry over her time. My organization doesn't allow you to carry over anything, which is tons of fun, especially if you dare take a vacation before the year is up and then get sick. My manager is already on my case about having almost 2 weeks still available, but I've had years where I've left myself just 1-2 days of PTO available for December and then had a medical emergency, for which I had to pay the company back for taking time off.
posted by xingcat at 12:18 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


for which I had to pay the company back for taking time off.

But we're gonna need you to go ahead, and come in on Saturday and, yeah why don't you plan on Sunday, too ?

And why are you leaving before 9pm ? Aren't you a Team Player ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:23 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


maybe after she gets tenure.

I think she's staff? From the article:

HRL: You didn’t ask about leave! Why didn’t you ask your department HR person?

Me: That would be me.

posted by longdaysjourney at 12:24 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


for which I had to pay the company back for taking time off.

I.. what? How is that even legal?

I miss back when I had benefits. I can't remember what government-mandated mat/pat leave is here, but the last company I worked at, parental leave was 1 year, paid at full salary. Also counted for adoption, too. Seems to me like that should be the standard everywhere.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:27 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


longdaysjourney dangit, I read it but didn't parse that bit. Wow. That's even more kinds of f'd up.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:27 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


To expand on my previous comment I don't understand why this didn't happen:
October 1: Baby born
October 1-x: "Hello I am calling in sick. I am too sick to come in." Not a lie, valid use of sick days.
October x+1: "Hello, I'll be out for the next 12 weeks on FMLA. I would like to cash in my vacation days."


That's not really how FMLA works. Her FMLA coverage starts when she takes leave for an eligible condition - be it pregnancy or maternity coverage. She could still justify taking her sick leave under FMLA - she would likely need a doctor's note that says she has complications from pregnancy or something, but FMLA is a right that employees have, not a privilege that they can elect to forego. Companies want to be very "generous" with FMLA leave, because if they inadvertently fire an employee for taking sick days that were covered by FMLA, they could get in big trouble.

The problem is that her employer's policy was really poorly documented and vague to boot, which is incredibly common.
posted by muddgirl at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


(Well, really the problem is America's patchwork of state and federal laws that do as little as possible to protect employees in most places, but in this specific case FMLA was more-or-less working like it was intended to work, unfortunately.)
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Having a kid definitely drives home the point about how different paid and unpaid leave are, for sure. My company is very generous with unpaid leave--in addition to the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by FMLA, they'll let you take any additional (unpaid) time up to a year as "personal leave." I ended up taking 16 weeks off and am seriously considering taking a full 6 months the next time I'm pregnant. This is only do-able, though, because my job is relatively well-paid (I was able to save about half my paycheck the entire time I was pregnant) and my husband's job is also well-paid so we could just live on one paycheck for a while while I stayed home and then he stayed home for a few months after I went back to work. That is very much not the case for a lot of families.

I've not traditionally been in the "argh Obama is insufficiently liberal/progressive" group but this analysis of why he isn't getting behind legislation that would create a Social Security-like program that provides income support to new parents for 12 weeks post-birth made me livid. Raising payroll taxes on the middle class by $100 is evidently too large a price to pay for women not being forced into inhumane choices about leaving the labor market or putting their kids into daycare when they are still in the floppy-head newborn stage. (Not to mention it's freaking hard to find high-quality daycare--in Colorado, there are slots at high-quality centers for something like 10 percent of kids whose parents would like them.)

The whole thing just makes me so, so angry. This is a classic example of where relying on employers to provide benefits means the exact folks who need it least get covered, while those who have the greatest need are working jobs that don't provide the benefit. It's such a strong parallel to retirement/pensions and Social Security, where the only reasonable solution was for the government to step in with income-security insurance that is mildly re-distributive, and I hate that the Obama administration is somehow positioning that as not in-line with Democratic values because "we can't raise taxes on the middle class, oh no!" As if parents aren't a major portion of the middle class who would benefit from this.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:32 PM on October 29, 2014 [17 favorites]


"Please read the form again" perfectly encapsulates the utter uselessness of HR in most workplaces. I can't tell you how many questions have been answered with "look at the website" while they return to important tasks like minesweeper and staring out the window.
posted by dr_dank at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2014 [24 favorites]


And, if you work in a place that has implemented PTO days, you can actually end up with fewer available days to use, than if you had separate sick and vacation days.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:35 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that even in countries with real parental leave, there is widespread and pervasive hiring discrimination against women who are of childbearing age.

One way to deal with this is to offer equal parental leave.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:38 PM on October 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


for which I had to pay the company back for taking time off.

I.. what? How is that even legal?
You were not at work for days for which you were paid. Wage theft. I've run into that too.

BB: I'm sick. Too sick to come in.
Work: Take a PTO day.
BB: I'm out.
Work: Come in.
BB: I'm sick. I'm contagious. I'm sleeping 20 hours a day.
Work: Work from home.
BB: I'll try.
Work: How did it go?
BB: I slept for two days.
Work: That sucks. Thanks for not spreading the plague.
BB: Here, I'll put it in as unpaid leave.
Work HR TLA computer system: SURE I WILL TAKE YOUR UNPAID LEAVE REQUEST.
Work HR TLA computer system: MANAGER OF BB HERE IS BB'S UNPAID LEAVE REQUEST.
BB Manager: I click approve.
Work HR TLA computer system: DOES NOT COMPUTE. WORKER CANNOT TAKE UNPAID LEAVE.
BB, BB Manager: Can we borrow ahead from next year?
Work HR TLA computer system and HR person: DOES NOT COMPUTE. WORKER CANNOT ...
BB Manager: Okay okay.
BB Manager, off the record: BB, when January rolls around, just "take" the days off in the HR TLA computer system and come into work.
BB: I'll stop inventing the time machine, then.
BB's Manager: Good, because the intellectual property agreements you signed with us would have made it ours anyway.
Work HR TLA computer system: PTO DAYS OF JAN 2-4 APPROVED. THANK YOU FOR MAKING A SIMPLE COMPUTER VERY HAPPY.

posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:39 PM on October 29, 2014 [17 favorites]


Now I feel bad for griping that the 4 months leave I'll be taking to care for my newborn will be unpaid (EI only) since my wife and I now work for the same employer.
posted by ODiV at 12:43 PM on October 29, 2014


It's blowing my mind what some of you guys consider "really good" benefits.

Here in the icy north of Kanukistan, my wife (a public school teacher without any sort of permanent contract) took 12 months @ 70% salary through a combination of employer and government benefits. We paid $0 for prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care. The Canadian economy is comparable to the US economy (per capita), and I paid less taxes than the average American, and earn more. You guys need to expect more from your government and your employers.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:44 PM on October 29, 2014 [74 favorites]


Facebook/Apple et al paying child-bearing age women to freeze their embryos so those little fleshbags don't interfere with the almighty Zuckerprofit is just emblematic of our whole attitudes towards workers.

Don't know about FB, but Apple gives women having babies 9 weeks pre-birth at 70% pay, and 5 weeks post-birth at 55%. Any sick/vacation pay can be used to make up the difference, also that sick/vacation time can be used afterwards. And depending on your manager, you might be able to "work from home " on top of that.. We also get paternal leave and "adoption bonding" leave.

Like I said, I don't know about FB, but Apple doesn't seem to follow your narrative on how it treats its child bearing workers.
posted by sideshow at 12:44 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


And, if you work in a place that has implemented PTO days, you can actually end up with fewer available days to use, than if you had separate sick and vacation days.

Not only that but it encourages people to drag their sorry asses into work no matter how sick and contagious they are just to keep from using up PTO days.
posted by octothorpe at 12:44 PM on October 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm HR/Payroll with 4 years of FMLA/STD leave experience (I'm not in CA but we're a nationwide company). I don't approve the leave, but I do the research on your check if something gets screwed up, and I enter the pay for backdated approvals. We give 75% regular pay (short-term disability) for first six weeks default for childbirth (even if it was c-section), you can only get an extension on the short term disability if you the new mother have had recovery difficulties and your dr fills out paperwork (normal c-section recovery doesn't count), and otherwise you can take baby bonding FMLA and burn through whatever PTO you have (in fact I believe in all states aside from CA, at our company, you're REQUIRED to use your PTO up and can't take unpaid time until the PTO is gone). Confirmed with my leave group that saying "it's baby bonding and also self-recovery" doesn't affect anything, they'd approve it as Baby Bonding FMLA.

Her employer is gaaaaaarbage. American maternity/postnatal policies are garbage also.
posted by agress at 12:45 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that this is one of the many things we could fund by uncapping payroll taxes, but that's not going to happen in my lifetime.
posted by Oktober at 12:46 PM on October 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


And people wonder why fewer Americans are having children....
posted by magstheaxe at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


You guys need to expect more from your government and your employers.

Many of us do expect more. It's a great setup for disappointment.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:47 PM on October 29, 2014 [24 favorites]


This seems really illegal. I deal with FMLA all the time. It specifically applies to care for a newborn, 12 weeks, black and white. It is not necessarily *paid* leave, but they can't fire you. Perhaps she's griping about taking unpaid leave first rather than paid leave. But it seems to me, you can take your 12 weeks of legally protected FMLA, then you can take whatever paid time off you have coming afterward without having to justify shit to anyone, it's your accrued vacation time.

Of course, it is fucking barbaric that we scrounge to give *some* women 12 weeks of unpaid leave without firing their ass. But we USians are inhuman and are fucked as a society anyway.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow that article was hard to read. Good god. I don't even see how what the company did was legal.
posted by sio42 at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2014


The sad thing is that even in countries with real parental leave, there is widespread and pervasive hiring discrimination against women who are of childbearing age.

There was a recent story (or maybe Motherlode blog post?) on NYTimes about this--my admittedly vague recollection is that some social scientists (economists?) did an analysis of the effect of maternity leave on labor market conditions for mothers, and found a "sweet spot" of about 9 months for guaranteed maternity leave. Longer than that, and employers start to discriminate against women on the fear that they might get pregnant and leave the employer struggling to cover the spot with a long-term temp, but shorter leaves didn't appear to have the same effect.

And of course, whether a country chooses to push the financial insurance piece onto employers (as the U.S. tends to do, as it's seen as more politically palatable even if it's worse for women) versus having the government taking it on is, I would imagine, a huge piece of that. For a company, being required to "hold a spot" for a parent who goes out on leave is logistically annoying but would have to be pretty lengthy to rise to the level of discriminating against qualified female applicants of childbearing age. On the other hand, being subject to a law that requires you to provide paid leave is more likely to lead you to try to avoid hiring women who are likely to use that (expensive) benefit. I'd love it if all companies stepped up to the plate and offered paid parental leave, but the reality is that like most other benefits, it's the companies who are courting highly-compensated and high-skilled workers who add this stuff to their benefits package to sweeten the deal, and lower-income workers get fuck-all.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Employers will do whatever they can get away with, regardless of whether it's legal, unless you seem important enough to complain to the right people. It's like the laws about breast-pumping; plenty of businesses just ignore them unless challenged, and some low-level employee is never going to have the guts. So they don't even get the not-very-good benefits.
posted by selfnoise at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Man, I don't have children, I don't want children, and back in the 90s I made sure that I couldn't have children, and I couldn't even finish that article for the empathetic frustration I was feeling for the writer. I think I would have to take a xanax merely to read the article.
posted by janey47 at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Please read the form again."

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


You guys need to expect more from your government and your employers.

I'd love to, but for the past 30-40 years the American public has been sold the lie that government can't do anything right, and government programs and agencies have been intentionally underfunded or undermined (e.g., Obamacare) in the service of this lie. A lot of us have bought this bs, hook, line and sinker. Makes it very hard to get enough people motivated to demand real benefits from their government.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:01 PM on October 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


I have a friend who recently gave birth. She's a postdoc at a large University in the midwest.

Her employer asked her to come in a month after giving birth for a meeting, just to help catch people up on some things. She went in that day, just for a few hours, and while there she mentioned to her boss that she would be visiting her husband (they live in different states - two body problem) with the baby at the end of her leave.

"You're supposed to come back on the 20th," her boss said. "No," my friend said, "I am taking 12 weeks off to recover, not 8 weeks off." She also told me she was thinking to herself, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" while her boss was chastising her.

Her boss told her that 12 weeks out of the lab was simply not acceptable, and that if she wanted good recommendation letters for her job search that she'd have to come in after eight weeks. "That's what I did when I had kids twenty years ago," her boss said. "I couldn't bear to be away from work for that long anyhow!"

My friend went back after eight weeks.
posted by sockermom at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think it's important to link this discussion with the prochoice one taking place elsewhere on the site. Reproductive discrimination is wide ranging: from contraception restrictions to abortion restrictions, to pregnancy discrimination, to restrictions during birth (like women who get threatened for refusing an induction or c-section), to lack of maternity leave and postpartum care, to lack of funding for childcare, and I would argue, to cutting funding for education and welfare benefits for women and children. If something can hurt, punish or control a woman by turning her status as the reproducing gender into a weapon, it will be done. While she's pregnant, her potential children are used as the shield, but the rest of the time, the fetus or child suffers right along with her.

It's a reflection of the absolute privileging of the male supremacy mindset. Reproduction and children are women's burdens. Woman aren't really people. Therefore, accommodating reproductive needs or concerns is simply bizarre. We have to use that money and those resources for real things that actual people, i.e., men, find important. To suggest that business or government take them into account and give them equal weight with things men prefer to be concerned about is outrageous, impertinent, and will lead this country down the road to ruin.

It's all horseshit, but it's very entrenched horseshit.
posted by emjaybee at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2014 [53 favorites]


American companies are generous in that they offer mothers limitless unpaid leave, according to the Onion.
posted by Renoroc at 1:05 PM on October 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am a man, who works in a male-dominated field, who took his full allotment of FMLA when my daughter was born last year. I had to have the conversation about this with coworkers twice, because everyone assumed it was an elaborate ruse the first time. "You're... not working? To take care of an infant? It's FMLA? Doesn't that mean you won't get paid?" It wasn't so much a question of disdain or disbelief as it was incomprehension. Like, there's a system. Your wife has the baby, stays home for three months to heal up, and then either she quits her job, or you throw the kid down the daycare oubliette. That is The Way Of Things.

Reading articles like these makes me incredibly grateful that I had an understanding and generally excellent-as-a-human-being supervisor, who didn't give me any hassles about taking my (federally guaranteed, but look how much that's worth) full block of time.
posted by Mayor West at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


I deal with FMLA all the time. It specifically applies to care for a newborn, 12 weeks, black and white. It is not necessarily *paid* leave, but they can't fire you.

This. What FMLA does is ensure that you have a job after taking unpaid leave for pregnancy, or surgery, or recovering from a car accident, etc. It says you can be absent from your job for a family or medical reason (including care of an ailing family member) for 12 weeks, and that a) your insurance coverage will remain unchanged, even though you're on leave from the organization, and b) the absence is not to be used as cause for termination.

Beginning with the day she went to the hospital to have the kid, she should have had 12 weeks of leave. Her employer doesn't provide maternity leave, so she basically would have had 12 weeks off, without a paycheck. She shouldn't have had to use sick leave or vacation leave until the day after that 12-week period ended.

She obviously had a clueless HR rep, which is really not all that unusual.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


My former grad student union at the University of Oregon recently passed a strike authorization vote with over 80% approval. The two main sticking points are wages and paid leave. Graduate workers currently have no paid leave -- if you're sick and really can't come in, you have to informally get a peer to cover your classes. You're basically out of luck if you decide to have a kid or suffer a serious injury.

At this point, the union has cut down their demand to just TWO weeks of paid medical/parental leave. The university is still dragging their feet despite the facts that (a) providing this leave would cost a total of roughly $35,000 a year (comparable to the cost of the lawyers they're employing to handle the contract negotiations) and (b) the interim university president published an article in The Atlantic few months ago arguing for the importance of paid parental leave .
posted by bassooner at 1:07 PM on October 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


She shouldn't have had to use sick leave or vacation leave until the day after that 12-week period ended.

I don't think this is true, albeit my FMLA experience is with the caregiver side of the FMLA equation. Companies can require employees to take sick leave or personal leave according to their own policies. They do not have to allow employees to stack their paid and unpaid leave.
posted by muddgirl at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


sideshow: And depending on your manager, you might be able to "work from home " on top of that..

In a workplace like FB or Google, I'm sure "work from home" means precisely that: doing what you do at the office, only at home. I don't think the scare-quoted "work from home" in other places where it's practically a day off with a few email checks thrown in to keep up appearances will be tolerated for long.
posted by dr_dank at 1:12 PM on October 29, 2014


Here's a relevant bit from Department of Labor:
Under the regulations, an employee may choose to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave if the employee complies with the terms and conditions of the employer's applicable paid leave policy. The regulations also clarify that substituting paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave means that the two types of leave run concurrently, with the employee receiving pay pursuant to the paid leave policy and receiving protection for the leave under the FMLA. If the employee does not choose to substitute applicable accrued paid leave, the employer may require the employee to do so.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


This seems really illegal. I deal with FMLA all the time. It specifically applies to care for a newborn, 12 weeks, black and white. It is not necessarily *paid* leave, but they can't fire you. Perhaps she's griping about taking unpaid leave first rather than paid leave. But it seems to me, you can take your 12 weeks of legally protected FMLA, then you can take whatever paid time off you have coming afterward without having to justify shit to anyone, it's your accrued vacation time.

That is indeed what she's complaining about, but you're not quite right here. As muddgirl says, employers can force you to consume your PTO or they can limit your total take. They can do this because in most states there's no obligation to provide vacation and they can set limits on how/when you use it.

This isn't totally fresh for me since it was about 18 months ago that I dealt with it, but I remember some aspects really clearly.

Her employer is actually running up against a serious potential legal issue by allowing her to work AT ALL during her FMLA time off, whether she's salaried or hourly. It's in her favor, really, since the DoL stuff on this is super strident that if you're engaging in work activity you're working. Coming back after the fact and saying "hey, you had me do this so pay me" would certainly end up in tears when they retaliated, but it's just a good example of how stupidly confused that place seems to be.

Despite their weird crankyness on some things, her employer was more generous than they're legally obligated to be when they allowed her to use her FMLA non-contiguously and do a few days on and a few off. I had to work out that sort of deal with my employer at the time and they didn't have to do it. It was in their interest to do so, since if they had refused I woulda said SEEYA ENJOY THE PROJECTS THAT WILL SIT FOR 3 MONTHS but obviously not everyone is so lucky to have that leverage.

I also wish she'd name&shame but I understand why she doesn't. This sort of employee hostility is bad for an institution since people who don't have to put up with it will bail, but they get away with it for a while because these things are so non-transparent till they bite you. So they suck people in, fuck them over, then many good people leave the first chance they have to abandon a gig that hosed them. So you end up with institutional quality drain, which, you know, good - fuck the institution, they are getting what they deserve when good folks leave.

But folks coming in don't necessarily realize that, or have a choice in the matter not to take the job. And this stuff is rarified enough that most people wouldn't know to research it before they took the job. Assuming, of course, that the organization publicized any of it... which hers studiously did not.
posted by phearlez at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2014


Beginning with the day she went to the hospital to have the kid, she should have had 12 weeks of leave. Her employer doesn't provide maternity leave, so she basically would have had 12 weeks off, without a paycheck. She shouldn't have had to use sick leave or vacation leave until the day after that 12-week period ended.

She obviously had a clueless HR rep, which is really not all that unusual.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:06 PM on October 29 [1 favorite]


This does not sound right to me. An employee is not required to use accrued PTO while the 12-week FMLA clock is running unless stated in their employer's FMLA leave/PTO policy. Most employees obviously want to utilize all of their PTO during FMLA leave so they can get paid. FMLA leave runs concurrently with other types of leave such as disability, worker's comp, etc... including paid time off such as sick, vacation and personal days.

I'm so glad that NYC passed the Paid Sick Leave law because this shit would not fly at my workplace. How does recovering from childbirth not qualify as sick time?!
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


But it seems to me, you can take your 12 weeks of legally protected FMLA, then you can take whatever paid time off you have coming afterward without having to justify shit to anyone, it's your accrued vacation time.

She hadn't accrued vacation time, she'd accrued sick time, from the sounds of it, hence the dickering about whether she was "sick". And they can indeed require you to use your paid leave even if you don't want to, although I don't think that would come up here. Even afterwards, having accrued vacation time does not obligate your company to let you take that time whenever you like if they need you in the office. Mostly, though, not everybody can afford to take off for three months without getting paid a penny in that period, especially not when they've just had a major medical event and suddenly have a new baby to care for.
posted by Sequence at 1:50 PM on October 29, 2014


Just browsed to the relevant section of my union contract:
A) Employees may use sick leave or other forms of paid leave to which they are entitled under the collective bargaining agreement in conjunction with the FMLA. However, an employee who is on an approved FMLA leave and is receiving short or long term disability benefits will not be required to use or exhaust sick leave
And then further down:
F) A parent shall be granted a leave of absence up to twelve (12) weeks to care for a new baby under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). Such leave can be less than twelve (12) weeks, if so requested by the employee, or at the discretion of management more than twelve (12) weeks, depending on the needs of the university. During the period of parental leave, the employee is entitled to use accrued vacation leave, compensatory time, leave without pay, or consistent with Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) regulations, sick leave.
Of course, university guidelines seem to interpret the word 'may' as a 'must'. Our handbook also mentions disability, which I guess is another way to get paid, if you've got sufficient foresight to enroll in short term disability during open enrollment.

Overall, I guess it's not as great as Eurpoean countries, but I've also seen some managers write how they feel, in places they don't like to talk about at dinner parties, that they prefer not to hire women because the strong protections for maternity are not easy to accomplish; hiring a temp to replace a skilled professional for a year is unpleasant, especially when your budget constraints demand you fire this person when the parent returns from leave.
posted by pwnguin at 1:57 PM on October 29, 2014


Her employer is actually running up against a serious potential legal issue by allowing her to work AT ALL during her FMLA time off, whether she's salaried or hourly.

I don't believe that's enterly true either. You can take part time FMLA in a number of circumstances, say taking care of a family member. It might be different for maternity leave though, that I'm not sure of.

Sockermom's friend on the other hand should be suing the pants off of that employer. Both the meeting and the pressure to come back at 8 weeks are naughty violations of FMLA. I understand why she probably won't. Which is why places get away with it. another reason to take it all out of the hands of employers. They hold too much sway over employee decisions.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2014


In a workplace like FB or Google, I'm sure "work from home" means precisely that: doing what you do at the office, only at home. I don't think the scare-quoted "work from home" in other places where it's practically a day off with a few email checks thrown in to keep up appearances will be tolerated for long.

Sorry, I should have been more clear in my example: The manager is the one doing the winking. While HR is probably not happy about it, I know at least one person whose manager unofficially extended their official leave by just telling them to stay at home an extra week or so with their new baby, rather than have them go through the hassle of getting disability pay and whatnot through HR and the FMLA.

But, your manager may vary, and all that.
posted by sideshow at 2:07 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


But it seems to me, you can take your 12 weeks of legally protected FMLA, then you can take whatever paid time off you have coming afterward without having to justify shit to anyone, it's your accrued vacation time.

I agree with the general thrust of the argument, although I thought you had to burn all your sick or PTO time before you could play the FMLA card. Maybe that's just what most people I know of have done by choice, though (wanting to keep the money coming in as long as possible).

Reading the article, it seems like the sticking point between the writer and her employer wasn't FMLA leave per se but rather how much of her accrued paid leave she could use for what purpose. It seems like Redacted State University split their leave into a bunch of different buckets, probably sick leave and vacation, and they balked at her trying to use sick leave post-birth because she had already announced her intention to use (unpaid) FMLA time for that.

It reads to me like someone from Redacted U was basically trying to bully her out of using sick time for what they thought 'wasn't really' sick time, but actually stay-at-home-with-baby time, which per their asinine policy doesn't qualify as being "sick", I guess. Which is a shitty policy, but I can totally see someone writing it that way.

The way I have seen people successfully use FMLA is to burn up all their paid sick and PTO time, and then when that's exhausted, declare that they're exercising FMLA. If you've already used up all the paid time, the company can't tell you to do that, so you're basically saying "hey, assholes, I'm not coming in for [valid FMLA reason], so fire me at your peril". The crappy part about this is, when you do come back to work, you've blown all your leave which depending on your accrual schedule can mean there's no vacation or sick days for you for a year.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:08 PM on October 29, 2014


An employee is not required to use accrued PTO while the 12-week FMLA clock is running *unless* stated in their employer's FMLA leave/PTO policy.

See, I don't think that's right. You CAN use your accrued PTO or sick leave if you want. Doing so will mean you will continue to get a paycheck during your leave. But you don't HAVE TO. You can leave that PTO/sick leave in the bank until the 12 weeks are up.

Fact sheet. The unpaid leave part is written into the act itself. Eligibility is, I believe, 6 consecutive months of employment with the employer.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:09 PM on October 29, 2014


mudpuppie - employers can require employees to exhaust their paid leave first, concurrently with FMLA, even if the employee would rather save their leave. My employer does so. It's discussed in the FAQ in the fact sheet you linked to in several places, including "Is my employer required to pay me when I take FMLA leave?"
posted by muddgirl at 2:18 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I attempted to use FMLA Family Caregiving Leave at my employer for paternal leave. HR told me that being pregnant was not an illness and I would have to use vacation. I told them to read their own policy which said the exact opposite. They apologized.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:19 PM on October 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


Her employer is actually running up against a serious potential legal issue by allowing her to work AT ALL during her FMLA time off, whether she's salaried or hourly.
I don't believe that's enterly true either. You can take part time FMLA in a number of circumstances, say taking care of a family member. It might be different for maternity leave though, that I'm not sure of.


I think we're conflating two different things.

Allowing someone to do any labor while on unpaid leave is a generic problem that runs afoul of the DoL's basic position that people should get paid for the shit they do. Various letters from them which I no longer have notes of (because it doesn't matter to me anymore) discuss this with regards to salaried employees and cite court cases where people continuing to do their blackberrying while on unpaid leave were found to still be working.

on the other hand, use of your FMLA in a contiguous or noncontiguous manner can be up to the employer.
Does an employee have to take leave all at once or can it be taken periodically or to reduce the employee's schedule?
When it is medically necessary, employees may take FMLA leave intermittently - taking leave in separate blocks of time for a single qualifying reason - or on a reduced leave schedule - reducing the employee's usual weekly or daily work schedule. When leave is needed for planned medical treatment, the employee must make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operation.
Leave to care for or bond with a newborn child or for a newly placed adopted or foster child may only be taken intermittently with the employer's approval and must conclude within 12 months after the birth or placement.
That has nothing to do with whether that FMLA is drawing on paid time off or not.

An employee is not required to use accrued PTO while the 12-week FMLA clock is running *unless* stated in their employer's FMLA leave/PTO policy.
See, I don't think that's right. You CAN use your accrued PTO or sick leave if you want. Doing so will mean you will continue to get a paycheck during your leave. But you don't HAVE TO. You can leave that PTO/sick leave in the bank until the 12 weeks are up.


That's up to the employer policy.
Substitution of Paid Leave
Employees may choose to use, or employers may require the employee to use, accrued paid leave to cover some or all of the FMLA leave taken. Employees may choose, or employers may require, the substitution of accrued paid vacation or personal leave for any of the situations covered by FMLA. The substitution of accrued sick or family leave is limited by the employer's policies governing the use of such leave.
posted by phearlez at 2:20 PM on October 29, 2014


Basically FMLA is a shitshow of a compromise to stop employers from firing sick/caretaker employees to save themselves money on health insurance benefits that is so complicated even HR departments either don't understand it, or intentionally misapply it.
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


One more reason I don't live in the US anymore. Colleague in my department was With Child. Announced she's taking one year leave. Done. I emailed her once during that year with a work question, and she had to drop by twice for some paperwork.
posted by Gotanda at 2:26 PM on October 29, 2014


The way I have seen people successfully use FMLA is to burn up all their paid sick and PTO time, and then when that's exhausted, declare that they're exercising FMLA. If you've already used up all the paid time, the company can't tell you to do that, so you're basically saying "hey, assholes, I'm not coming in for [valid FMLA reason], so fire me at your peril"

This is a risky course of action since there's requirements in FMLA about telling your employer when you know.
§825.302 Employee notice requirements for foreseeable FMLA leave.
(a) Timing of notice. An employee must provide the employer at least 30 days advance notice before FMLA leave is to begin if the need for the leave is foreseeable based on an expected birth, placement for adoption or foster care, planned medical treatment for a serious health condition of the employee or of a family member, or the planned medical treatment for a serious injury or illness of a covered servicemember. If 30 days notice is not practicable, such as because of a lack of knowledge of approximately when leave will be required to begin, a change in circumstances, or a medical emergency, notice must be given as soon as practicable
and
§825.304 Employee failure to provide notice.
...
b) Foreseeable leave—30 days. When the need for FMLA leave is foreseeable at least 30 days in advance and an employee fails to give timely advance notice with no reasonable excuse, the employer may delay FMLA coverage until 30 days after the date the employee provides notice. The need for leave and the approximate date leave would be taken must have been clearly foreseeable to the employee 30 days in advance of the leave.
posted by phearlez at 2:28 PM on October 29, 2014


Per the FMLA FAQ: You have to have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave to qualify. For most people working a typical 40 hr/wk schedule that's about 8 months. (I've seen employee handbooks that just flatly say "12 months", which would appear to contradict the DoL, but that's the tip of the iceberg in terms of illegal stuff I've seen written in employee handbooks. Never trust them.)

The "substitution of paid leave" question is a bit murkier. It would seem that, yes, your employer can require you to burn your paid leave (and, obviously, continue to pay you) when you declare your intent to exercise FMLA.

However, if you've already exhausted all your paid leave for the year, and you have an FMLA-eligible condition, I don't see anything that lets the employer foreshorten the amount of FMLA time that you can take by subtracting out paid leave. FMLA says you get 12 weeks, unpaid. So if you take 4 weeks paid, and then when you're out of paid leave you drop the FMLA card, I don't think the employer can fire you after 8 weeks. But if you said at the outset that you were taking FMLA, and the employer says "okay, sure" but continues to pay you, then maybe the employer could say the 12-week clock was ticking the whole time.*

The bit in the FAQ about employers being able to require that 'bonding time' happen intermittently rather than in a block is interesting. I've never run across an employer actually requiring that — I think most companies would just prefer you go away for whatever time you're going to take, then come back and do a normal schedule and never mention your spawn again, ever — but I guess they have the right by statute to do it.

The 30-day advance notice rule is an interesting wrinkle. I've never seen a company go to bat over it, but I guess a shitty enough employer could. I guess if you were concerned, 30 days out is when you'd want to tell them "hey, I'm going to be exercising FMLA as of [day 30 days from now]" in writing, but still burn PTO first so that there's none left on that day.

* I've never heard of this double-counting thing actually happening IRL, and I know a bunch of people who've used FMLA at various big, inhumane companies. That tends to make me think that somebody's interpretation of FMLA is that you get 12 weeks unpaid whether you burn PTO at the start or the end of it, and they don't want to end up in court trying to defend the [12 weeks - banked PTO] interpretation. Because if that was a valid interpretation of the law I'm sure more companies would try to pull it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2014


HRL: You didn’t ask about leave! Why didn’t you ask your department HR person?

Me: That would be me.
The irony being that the same byzantine regulations which are screwing her, are the reason she has a job in the first place. Of course, like most Americans with bullshit jobs, she recognizes that her job is basically bullshit, which is why, of course, she's complaining bitterly because she didn't make the effort to actually understand the regulations she was supposed to help administer.

She's perfectly happy to benefit from a system which is unjust but then cries bitter tears when that system turns out to be not so great for her after all.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:46 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


So if you take 4 weeks paid, and then when you're out of paid leave you drop the FMLA card, I don't think the employer can fire you after 8 weeks. But if you said at the outset that you were taking FMLA, and the employer says "okay, sure" but continues to pay you, then maybe the employer could say the 12-week clock was ticking the whole time.*

So this is kind of complicated, IME. If you take 4 weeks of vacation leave, yes, this might work (IF your employer agrees to allow 4 weeks of leave all at once). But if you try to take 4 weeks of sick leave, your employer has the responsibility of determining if your leave qualifies for FMLA, even if you do not explicitely state that you want to take FMLA leave.
posted by muddgirl at 2:48 PM on October 29, 2014


That is an incredibly uncharitable and hostile take, ennui.bz.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:52 PM on October 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


The reason they have this responsibility is that, if they fire you during those 4 weeks of sick leave or even PTO and it turns out you were hospitalized for cancer treatment, say, they can get in huge trouble.
posted by muddgirl at 2:53 PM on October 29, 2014


Also, obviously the DOL guidelines are a minimum, and many state laws and even individual company guidelines provide for more than just the minimum, such as stacking leave, or providing more than 12 weeks, or allowing short-term disability, etc. But they don't have to, and many don't. My employer is relatively decent when it comes to leave, but they basically provide just the minimum required by law for FMLA.
posted by muddgirl at 3:00 PM on October 29, 2014


That is an incredibly uncharitable and hostile take, ennui.bz.

Because it's the high, keening whine of someone saying: "Not me... this wasn't supposed to happen to me!"
I had spent years commiserating with people online about FMLA issues, but I never once thought I would be among them. Right then and there, on my kitchen floor, I understood with absolute clarity why women quit their jobs after having kids. I will never, ever question it again.
It took her years to realize *it* *could* *happen* *to* *her*

Even though she describes herself as one of those
... acronym-obsessed HR types
posted by ennui.bz at 3:02 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


The article is about a university, and universities frequently flout normal labor laws. For example, it is very common for professors to only work with students from their country of origin, which would be rather illegal in any other context. Also schools frequently fail to deduct taxes properly for grad students and postdocs, leading to a big surprise bill at the end of the tax year. My understanding is that the Department of Labor basically turns a blind eye in the name of academic freedom.

The place I went had one sentence about pregnancy in the student handbook: "Research and teaching assistants are permitted to take a one-year unpaid leave of absence after pregnancy." That's it. There was absolutely no guarantee of taking less than a year, FMLA or not.
posted by miyabo at 3:29 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wow, what a horrible situation.

miyabo hits on it above. Universities, especially state or land grant universities seem to have really old and nebulous laws about what they can and cannot do with regards to several things, not just HR-based stuff.

Alternatively, someone I know had a baby in May and her private, for profit college system gave her 80% salary and medical for a full 12 months as a baseline. Then again, she does have tenure. Her husband is using FMLA to help as well, but his job is totally doable from home with a baby.
posted by Sphinx at 3:52 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I managed to scrape together 9 weeks of paid time off when my son was born -- not taking any vacation time and minimal sick time off while TTC and while pregnant, plus he was born in December so I had a few extra days due to holidays. I would have loved to have 12 weeks off but I could not afford to take unpaid time off. I chose the wrong healthcare plan the year he was conceived so we paid more than $5K out of pocket for his (natural, uncomplicated) birth.

My husband had started a new job while I was pregnant, so he didn't qualify for FMLA at all. He got two weeks off unpaid, and was hassled for even taking that much time off.

The day that we left our 9-week-old baby with a stranger to go to work, we sat in the driveway and cried. Then I went back to work, and proceeded to pump on every break -- in a bathroom because that was the only logical place to pump -- for a full year.

And I consider myself to have decent benefits! This is America, it could be so much worse.

And the fun only begins there:

Our daycare bill is approximately half of my husband's paycheck. And that's for the reduced potty-trained pre-k rate; infant care is more like 80% of my husband's paycheck.

But at least I can drop him off before work and pick him up after work. I have no idea how we're going to manage it when he's in first grade, when school starts at 8:30 and ends at 2 and we commute half an hour away from our town/his future school and there do not seem to be any decent before- and after-school programs in our town.

I would love to have another kid, but I literally do not know how that could possibly work.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:02 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I would love to have another kid, but I literally do not know how that could possibly work.

One parent stops working outside the home and raises the kids. As you say yourself: infant care is more like 80% of my husband's paycheck.

When I had my kids a decade-and-a-half ago my observation was that the two-working-parent vs one-working-parent decision was largely break-even with two kids. The decision as to whether both parents kept working (it was usually the mother) depended on a lot of factors but ultimately the difference in income after taking out childcare costs was pretty minimal. The exception to this was usually really high-income couples where childcare costs were < 50% of one parent's income.

Anyway, that separate from the whole issue of parental leave. FWIW in addition to getting much larger guaranteed parental leave periods in Canada, you can get paid EI for a portion of it. I got $400 or so for the month I took off.
posted by GuyZero at 4:14 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a grad student at a large public university in the Northeast. We have fairly good benefits, but no leave, paid or otherwise. I know two women who gave birth this spring and we're back in the classroom teaching a week later. I was lucky enough to give birth two weeks after the semester ended. I'm pregnant again and due on the last day of the semester. :/

One of the reasons I'm still a grad student and my husband is an adjunct is so we could take turns taking care of our son in his first year. I can't imagine having to have left him in day care 40 hours a week when he was 12 weeks old.
posted by apricot at 4:14 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


As an American who has lived in Australia for over six years now, this is one reason I don’t think I’ll ever go back to live in the US.

When I had my son two years ago, I got six months of paid maternity leave (I think the federally mandated amount is somewhat less than that, but it is several months paid leave at least). They were flexible about when and how I took it, which meant that after three months I started going in two or three days a week and thus the shock of the daycare transition was much less abrupt. It also meant that I didn’t have to go back full-time until my son was about nine months old. Since I was paid I didn’t have to worry about money at this time. I only had to worry about bonding with my son and being a good mom — which, as a first-time parent, certainly seemed like enough to be worrying about!

I feel so fortunate; I can’t imagine how people in the US do it. One might imagine you could mitigate some effects by going back to work part-time, but of course the reliance on employer-provided health care (tied to full-time work only) means that is also not an option in many cases. Of the people I know in the US, most either quit their jobs when they have kids (like my SIL) or are childless (like one of my best friends). The main exception, another good friend with two kids, works full-time and is constantly stressed. She lost her managerial job when she went on maternity leave: the temporary person she hired to replace her while she was gone ended up getting promoted over her while she was away. He now manages her, despite being more incompetent than her in nearly every way (both on paper as well as in practice). And she was lucky; her employer was way more decent about this than the one in this article.

Anyway, I’m still here in Australia. I miss my family and many things about the US deeply but if I ever have a second child I can’t imagine having it anywhere other than here. And even if I don’t have another child, I really treasure living in a society that seems to actually value families rather than just talking about valuing them.
posted by forza at 4:15 PM on October 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why her FMLA didn't start after she used up her sick days.

Didn't you read the form?
posted by thelonius at 4:19 PM on October 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Our faculty leave policy gives one semester off at full pay, for either parent, for either biological children or the adoption of young children. I had a baby in Feb, and was out from last December through this August. We're a small liberal arts women's college, and a few years back we felt that creating a more family-friendly policy fit our mission. It's still not as good for staff, but there's 6 weeks at full pay with FMLA after that, and probably some flexibility beyond that. When I started my leave there was zero paperwork on my end.

My husband was staff at another college in town, and had to just use vacation time. I don't think their faculty gets much either. There's a huge variation there.
posted by bizzyb at 4:24 PM on October 29, 2014


"The irony being that the same byzantine regulations which are screwing her, are the reason she has a job in the first place. Of course, like most Americans with bullshit jobs, she recognizes that her job is basically bullshit, which is why, of course, she's complaining bitterly because she didn't make the effort to actually understand the regulations she was supposed to help administer.

She's perfectly happy to benefit from a system which is unjust but then cries bitter tears when that system turns out to be not so great for her after all.
"

So what's your excuse for being a bitter dick about it?

1) The byzantine regulations aren't the reason she has a job in the first place.
2) The policy was unclearly stated.
3) Describing that as "perfectly happy to benefit from a system which is unjust" is unsupported, despite your follow-up about keening whining.

Mostly, it just seems like you're pissy about HR or pregnancy or both. What's your goal here?
posted by klangklangston at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Unpaid leave is a real sneaky screw job....how would you cover your health insurance during that time? Why, by paying the full cost of the premium yourself, of course. And there's a not-insignificant risk that you might make an error and incur a gap in coverage, with all the attendant problems that entails.

I started a new university staff job in May, and now have five-week-old twin girls. I've managed to take six days off in that time, because I am responsible for the income and the health insurance until Mrs. Dread goes back to work. I have one girl at home and one in the NICU. And we count ourselves lucky to have health insurance to cover all the bills. Welcome to Reagan's America.
posted by Existential Dread at 4:45 PM on October 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


Unpaid leave is a real sneaky screw job....how would you cover your health insurance during that time? Why, by paying the full cost of the premium yourself, of course. And there's a not-insignificant risk that you might make an error and incur a gap in coverage, with all the attendant problems that entails.

This is literally the one direct financial benefit of FMLA: your employer is required to provide you the same health insurance you had while on leave.
posted by pwnguin at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Chile, obligatory 1.5 months before and 6 after with pay, and you can't be fired for a year after coming back to work. People complain that it makes it harder to hire child-bearing age women.
posted by signal at 5:26 PM on October 29, 2014


Whenever these threads come up there is always a comparison between the shockingly bad support available for parents in the US and EU, what seems to get emphasised less is the seeming disparity regarding illness and pay. The use of sick days seems really common in the US, but this is really alien to me as a UK citizen. We don't have a particularly stand out national policy but anyone too sick to work gets a pretty low weekly rate (£87) but often there will be some amount of negotiated period of pay from the company. I think it might surprise US MeFites but to cite my own situation, I get full pay for the first 6 months of illness, and half pay for the next six months, which is obviously a pretty good deal and by no means unusual in the UK university sector. I know this happens too, as colleagues have had to use it. Stuff like this really puts me off thinking about work in the US, it seems like its really difficult to compare many of the unspoken benefits of health coverage, basic attitudes to work and pay, etc.
posted by biffa at 5:30 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Apparently under DC's mandatory sick leave law DC employers (fed exempted) have to let you take your paid sick leave under these circumstances.
posted by humanfont at 5:46 PM on October 29, 2014


My husband and I had to have a long talk about which one of us was going to give up the corporate gig. Daycare expenses and commute didn't make anything else feasible. Our lifestyle is reduced, we drive old cars and the house needs more attention than I can give it, but the other options were worse.
posted by dejah420 at 5:56 PM on October 29, 2014


Over and above getting civilized maternity leave policies here in America, dear God how I wish we could get away from employers being little tinpot dictators whose sole worry is the idea that their employees are constantly trying to screw them over. Here's a hint: Loyalty is a two-way street. If you demonstrate real loyalty to your employees, good employees will be loyal in return. If you nickle and dime people at every opportunity, you'll get that back too.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:59 PM on October 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


My employer has good leave policies for the US, but does require using up paid leave options before triggering FMLA. I don't know the specifics of maternal/paternal leave because I don't have kids and haven't yet had an employee have a kid. As far as I know our system is entirely flat, with every full time employee from custodial assistant up to the very top having the exact same leave and insurance policies.

Colleges and universities, however, almost always have a two- or three-tier system (worst being grad students, then staff, then faculty; I suspect big places have a fourth executive tier for the very top administrators, too), and as noted aren't always great about being in compliance. When I was in grad school women were openly advised to have babies as grad students, because you can always take an extra year (sometimes with funding) but once you are on the junior faculty track the consequences go way up.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


When I was in grad school women were openly advised to have babies as grad students, because you can always take an extra year (sometimes with funding) but once you are on the junior faculty track the consequences go way up.

Although at the university I left last year they provided notably more vacation time for faculty (including professional faculty, really meaning staff jobs they need to pay more for), making banking up time to use during FMLA notably easier.
posted by phearlez at 6:24 PM on October 29, 2014


phearlez: "Although at the university I left last year they provided notably more vacation time for faculty (including professional faculty, really meaning staff jobs they need to pay more for), making banking up time to use during FMLA notably easier."

Definitely; I switched from an unclassified programmer at one university to a classified sysadmin two states over, and went from 26 days of vacation to 12 days. If I work in my new position for another 23 years, I will be back up to 27 days vacation. Alternatively, if management makes good on their hint of converting my position to unclassified (and formalize the fact that I supervise 5-10 student employees at any given moment), I'll double vacation immediately. I try to spend the first few years banking vacation time, but it's much slower without the 'here's a month to refresh yourself' policy.
posted by pwnguin at 6:37 PM on October 29, 2014


American living in Australia here. When I was about 7 months along in my current pregnancy I took on a five week contract for a local company. I told them I was willing to work up until the Friday before my due date if they needed it, and they gave me this horrified look and said "Uh, we actually like pregnant employees to go ahead and start leave a few weeks before their due dates. I mean, what if you went into labor at the office?" I proceeded to laugh my ass off and tell them about my friends working for American employers who have had to do just that. Because what other choice do you have when the best many can expect is 12 weeks without pay (while also paying your part of the insurance premiums that are normally deducted from your paycheck)?

One Aussie friend of mine was placed on mandatory bed rest at 27 weeks. What do you even do in the US in that case? Just up and quit your job?

I had one American friend get screwed working for a small company (~100 people) that had no HR. Being a male-dominated company, there also had literally not been a single female employee to give birth the entire seven years she'd worked there before she had her kid. As a result, she didn't know and no one told her that the only paid option for any of the FMLA-mandated 12 weeks was six weeks of 60% short term disability pay, which you had to sign up for during open enrollment, and of course you can't sign up once you're pregnant even if the open enrollment period is literally the week after you find out you're pregnant, as in her case. (An employee handbook was released for the first time halfway through her tenure there and it did mention this policy, but at that point she thought she knew all the policies so hadn't reviewed this one in any detail, given that she knew from her male coworkers' experiences that they got two weeks paid paternity leave so the company obviously cared. Turns out the handbook release also got rid of paternity leave completely, without fanfare.) So she went totally unpaid and the company's reaction was "too bad."

It's all just disgusting. If the concern is it favors women over men, then give men paternity leave too! It can benefit everyone! If it's too long a period to hold a job after 3 months, then offer onsite or other trusted, nearby, subsidized daycare that will make it emotionally, logistically, and financially easier for parents to get back to work sooner! We're not going to go back to the widespread single-breadwinner, stay-at-home-mom myth of the 50s. Economically and socially, that's simply not going to happen. So get with the times and find ways to make it work for your company that isn't just denial that the issue exists or that humans will continue to reproduce.
posted by olinerd at 6:38 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


One Aussie friend of mine was placed on mandatory bed rest at 27 weeks. What do you even do in the US in that case? Just up and quit your job?

Pretty sure that sort of thing is covered by short-term disability, same as any other health event would be. At least that's my understanding of it where I work; hoping all workplaces are the same!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:53 PM on October 29, 2014


What do you even do in the US in that case?

Ritual suicide, I'm afraid. Its all the more depressing because all too often the baby is caught up in the blade.
posted by ftm at 7:19 PM on October 29, 2014


Although at the university I left last year they provided notably more vacation time for faculty (including professional faculty, really meaning staff jobs they need to pay more for), making banking up time to use during FMLA notably easier.

Faculty leave policies are usually (but not always) fairly generous. But pre-tenure women faculty risk being penalized for "taking time off" to have children regardless of the leave policy. Big schools will more often have clear policies on this, but small schools not infrequently have inconsistent policies that require individual negotiation with senior administrators (usually old and male) and so two people can end up with different leave and tenure accommodations in the same year.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:06 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is literally the one direct financial benefit of FMLA: your employer is required to provide you the same health insurance you had while on leave.

Provide = make available, no? I seem to recall if I went into unpaid FMLA I had to pick up both sides of the cost as in a COBRA-like situation.

Nope. I did have to pay in advance since they could not deduct from disability cheques.

COBRA, too, is aptly named. The price will kill you as if being unemployed were not enough. Let's see, $400 a week unemployment and $1300 a month health insurance payment ... Hmmmm
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2014


When we moved to our current city, my wife was strongly encouraged to sign up for short-term disability, because building up time takes time. She did. We had the kid 5 years ago, and without her forward-thinking coworker's advice we would have been screwed. If you have short-term as an option and think you may have a kid sometime in the near future, sign up while you can. Because "won't someone think about the children!!" only applies BEFORE they are born in this country; afterwards, let the little buggers fend for themselves I guess?
posted by caution live frogs at 7:03 AM on October 30, 2014


employers can require employees to exhaust their paid leave first, concurrently with FMLA, even if the employee would rather save their leave.


If this hasn't been legally clarified yet, I guess it should be. Most places around here lump all your time off (PTO=paid time off=vacation plus sick leave). Returning to work with a newborn at home and not having the ability to take days off for unexpected illness, doctor appointments -- in fact being at risk for termination for doing so -- is fucking brutal. I would literally do everything I could to not work for such an organization. Not to mention no vacation for a year. All for doing the bare minimum to be a sufficient parent. It's maddening that we tolerate this.

Where's the "Family Values" political party now? Oh that's right, showboating over Ebola paranoia.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:36 AM on October 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Buttons Bellbottom: "Provide = make available, no? I seem to recall if I went into unpaid FMLA I had to pick up both sides of the cost as in a COBRA-like situation.

Nope. I did have to pay in advance since they could not deduct from disability cheques.
"

"Provide" was my wording. The specific language the DoL uses, from your link is "maintain group health insurance coverage, including family coverage, for an employee on FMLA leave on the same terms as if the employee continued to work." The very last paragraph of the section you linked to states that if you invoke FMLA and fail to return to work, they may recover the premiums they paid to maintain your coverage.

Just so we're clear, you're still responsible for paying whatever your portion of the premium was, and your disability payments probably don't have the payroll deductions registered, so you get that nightmare. At the places I've worked, the employer's share dwarfs the share of the premium I payed. It may not seem like much of a benefit, but premiums are like 10k-15k a year, so at 12 weeks FMLA leave, you're looking at an expenditure of around $2-3k, as you note in your COBRA aside.

But hell, it could be that your employer did ask you to put up your side of the payment. There's no shortage of examples in this thread of misinformed, misguided employers diverging from FMLA compatible policies.
posted by pwnguin at 6:55 PM on October 30, 2014


Count me in the "guy who was told he had to use his PTO first and it was part of the 12 weeks to boot" camp, strongly pressured to keep it to 6 weeks by everyone but HR (in the "we need you :) :)" way rather than being threatening), and normally I'm pretty good at fact-checking that stuff...but there were already various pressures and stresses, a new CEO, a "as a man you will want to be at work within a week or two because wife and baby are the pits after awhile" mentality from multiple people, etc. It's really crappy, it's nothing to be proud of in America. It's a shameful thing, and just another indication that we would have much less unemployment if we simply staffed organizations to handle these sorts of basic humane policies.

My wife was pressured a lot too but got her 12 weeks, but had to "check email" aka do her job editing and revising contracts and whatnot a few weeks of super-painful but peaceful recovery. I basically burned up 2 or 3 weeks of PTO, and then went into some weird sort of "work at home if you want to, no pressure, hey can you look at this, hey the CEO is asking about this" part-time thing that I felt obligated to do because it affected the bottom line. Really they could've paid someone else to do it on a contract basis or whatever, but I wasn't exactly jumping at the prospect of making it seem easy to do what I do, only to have some contractor calling me to ask 50 questions a day while making me look more disposable or what have you. There's a depressing shit-ton of pressure on mother and father with a new baby, and the first three years became the most painful years of my life despite having a new boy, because of the various stresses in trying to achieve the "middle class" dream -- the single family starter home that instantly starts sucking up your income, stressful work pressures where advancement means taking on more stress, blah blah blah.

I got the hang of it, had to take care of previously-manageable issues beyond your usual "growing up" that took years of experimentation and discomfort and wretched anxiety, and have come out on the other side mostly content, but knowing exactly what it means to have that exasperated typical frustrated but wishes he wasn't and wants everyone to relax and be happy so he can relax sort of sitcom stereotype dad. RELAX!
posted by aydeejones at 8:12 PM on October 30, 2014


Excellent Freudian at the end there, because that is my dad but I meant this dude <---
posted by aydeejones at 8:15 PM on October 30, 2014


Naturally vacations help with all of this, and they pose the whole other sort of stress, across every facet from the last week of work before vacation where you're freaking out tying up loose ends, or the week after "playing catch-up" or the fact that a really good vacation with kids involves a hefty amount of stress (often) just getting to the destination and back.

These (my words) are all middle-class white-whines but we were all supposed to have it better than this. Not everyone wants the single-family home in the burbs but we should all have our place to live and our privacy and our dignity and our health and a BMR -- a basic minimum respect level between all people that we depend upon each other and should better depend on each other in a more kind and expectant way rather than balkanizing into enclaves and developing tribal hatred for the burbs, or the city, or the midwest, or the the east parts of the PNW, or "bad neighborhoods." Fuuuuuu
posted by aydeejones at 8:21 PM on October 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Every time there's a post like this on the blue or another site based in the US I have the same disconnect with the comments. I'm in the UK, and I just can't get my head around the idea of having sick leave that you carry over. The entire thing of treating it as a voluntary/choice based thing like annual leave just seems bizarre. Generally here you're not going to get hit financially if you're off for a few days with Norovirus or something, or even something longer term like a broken leg.
posted by MattWPBS at 1:14 PM on October 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yup. I remember chatting with an overseas friend about getting the flu and how I was NOT ready to be back to work after 3 days but didn't have much choice. While he went on to explain he was out for two weeks recently recovering from the flu. I mean, I knew that sick leave was more humane on the other side of the pond, but hearing about it at that time, when I was so frustrated about how sick I was, how I probably got it from my coworkers who were coming in because they didn't want to lose PTO, and how I was likely to get other people sick but I wasn't given much choice . . . Well let's just say it really put it in context.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:04 AM on November 1, 2014


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