Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘maternity leave’

Three Changes to Improve the Lives of Low Income and Middle Class Families

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

olivia_headOn January 20, 2015, President Obama laid out what I think are three things that can make a difference in the lives of low income and middle class workers.

1. Child Care

There is a need now more than ever for affordable child care, especially since in many homes both parents are in the workforce. Child care is often viewed as an issue specific to women, and it is often the woman who has to choose between a pay check or caring for their sick child. President Obama called for us to stop treating this as a woman’s issue but to see it one that affects us all. President Obama proposed for more available and affordable child care. Additionally he proposed a tax cut of up to $3,000 to families for each child in child care.

Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/family-responsibilities-discrimination for more information.

2. Sick Leave

The United States, unlike Germany, France, Sweden and at least 145 other countries, does not guarantee paid sick leave or maternity leave to workers. President Obama proposed that we being to work with states to assist them in adopting paid leave laws, but also that we work toward creating a bill.

Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/sickleave for more information.

3.Higher Pay

President Obama urged for a commitment to an economy that generates rising income and provides a chance to everyone who makes an effort. Congress has yet to pass law that provides women the equal pay to men. President Obama stated that “It is time,” especially since it is 2015. Additionally, President Obama is seeking to raise the minimum wage, and challenged congressional members who were against it to live on an income of $15,000. Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/minimumwage for more information.

Finally, on a side note President Obama seeks to make community college $0. The benefits this will add for those in the workplace are numerous. Not only will workers be able to upgrade their skills but it will also give them the tools they need to participate in this growing economy. If we being to educate and encourage our workforce through, free education, higher pay, and affordable child care I believe we will see more growth than ever in our economy.

About the Author Olivia Nedd is a legal intern for Workplace Fairness and a student at Howard University School of Law.

Woman Says Employer Forced Her To Take Unpaid Leave While Pregnant

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Bryce CovertWhile Jamie Cole’s doctor was monitoring her pregnancy because she had suffered preeclampsia with a previous one, she was still healthy. Her doctor simply told her to continue working as normal, just without heavy lifting. “The only restriction I had was lifting,” she told ThinkProgress. Given that the Sava Senior Care’s Brian Center nursing home in Weaverville, North Carolina where Cole worked is a no-lift facility that uses machines to get patients out of and back into bed, plus other workers who were put on light duty for other reasons were accommodated, she assumed she could continue with her plan to work up until she delivered her baby.

But she apparently assumed wrong. “The director told me that I couldn’t work with any restrictions,” she said. “They told me that the only way they could allow me to work would be if I had my work restrictions lifted or if I just got rid of the doctor’s note… I told her I wasn’t going to do that.” But even after her doctor changed her note to say she could do lifting so long as it wasn’t more than 35 pounds, she says the directors still refused to let her work.

Her plan was to use saved up vacation and sick time to take a eight weeks paid off after the birth of her child. Instead, she says she was forced onto unpaid leave much earlier than she wanted. And if she didn’t sign the papers to go out on unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, she says she was told they couldn’t promise her job would be there for her when she came back. “It scared me,” she said. “I had two kids at home and was getting ready to bring a third one in.”

“I couldn’t understand why they were doing it to me,” she said. “I needed that job. I loved my job. I was really hurt.”

All told, she spent five and a half weeks on unpaid leave. She was allowed back to work for a week even with lifting restrictions after lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union talked to the company on her behalf, which she managed with the use of the mechanical lift and help from coworkers, but then her doctor put her on full leave because she started to experience pain. “I had to drain my savings account and checking account,” she said of her unpaid leave. “It put me more behind on everything when I could have been working that five and a half weeks.”

So she’s taken legal action, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that seeks compensation for the missed wages, legal fees, and economic and emotional damages. The Sava Senior Care Brian Center Health & Rehabilitation in Weaverville did not respond to a request for comment.

She has since resigned from her job with Sava and found one at a different facility. “I was already stressed and didn’t want to put myself back into that,” she said. She says her family is starting to catch back up financially but that some of the effects linger. Her baby, who is now six months old, still sleeps in her room. “He has his own room,” she said. “But everything that I had saved up to do the baby’s room I had to put toward bills and stuff like that.” She also ended up having to return to work earlier than she wanted, making for a rough transition back.

Beyond seeking compensation, “I would like to see them change their policies,” she said. “I’m not going to be the last woman to ever work for Sava that was pregnant.”

She’s also not likely to be the last woman to go through such an experience. An estimated quarter million women have their requests for a simple accommodation so they can keep working — such as light duty, the ability to sit, or more frequent bathroom breaks — denied each year. Yet 80 percent of first-time mothers work into their last month of pregnancy.

Women are increasingly taking legal action. Complaints like Cole’s rose 65 percent between 1992 and 2007, while nearly 6,00 were filed in 2011. The Supreme Court has heard a case against the United Parcel Service from Peggy Young, who says she was denied light duty while pregnant even though it’s given to workers for other reasons. Multiple complaints have been brought against Walmart for refusing to give pregnant workers job duty changes. Home decorating store Pier 1 is being sued by a woman who says she was forced onto unpaid leave and a grocery store is being sued by a woman who says she lost her baby after she was denied light duty.

Pregnant women also face other forms of discrimination. Employers often rely on stereotypes to fire them, such as the idea that they won’t return to work after they have their babies even though nearly 60 percent go back to work within six months of giving birth. A different nursing home is being sued by a woman who says she was fired hours after she disclosed her pregnancy, while a doughnut shop is being sued by a woman who says she was unjustly fired while on maternity leave. The Department of Justice is even suing the Chicago Board of Education for firing pregnant teachers.

This article originally appeared in thinkprogress.org on January 27, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media

New Report: Working Caregivers as a Protected Class?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Finding a manageable work/life balance is something many of us struggle with a great deal–and the stakes only get higher for Americans who work full-time and have caregiving responsibilities at home. Whether that means taking care of children, a sick partner, or an elderly loved one, holding down an ambitious career while still taking good care of those that depend on you at home can be a daunting challenge.

While I’d like to be able to tell you that employers are universally understanding of their employees that struggle with juggling a full-time job while being a caregiver, we all know this simply isn’t true. As if layoffs due to our ailing economy weren’t bad enough, employers discriminating against employees based on their caregiving responsibilities is on the rise–and it has a name: Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD).

Before you stop reading this post because you’re thinking “such a wonky-sounding term can’t possibly affect me,” I beg you to take another few moments and keep on reading. Family Responsibilities Discrimination can occur in any number of unfortunate–but very real–workplace circumstances. Such as….

  • when a new mother is denied a promotion NOT based on her job performance, but because it is assumed she will no longer be as committed to work once baby enters the picture.
  • when a man’s employer refuses him paternity leave because “his wife should do it”
  • when a worker is fired for not meeting work goals while he is on legally protected family and medical leave to take care of a sick parent.

A new report by the Center for WorkLife Law’s Stephanie Bornstein & Robert J. Rathmell provides us with information about additional worker protections under local laws about which most people are not aware–like the ones described above. Take this true situation cited in the report, for example:

In Chicago, a single mother of two who filed a complaint for parental status discrimination under the city’s local ordinance was recently awarded over $300,000 in damages. The woman had been fired from her job as a medical services salesperson after rescheduling a meeting because her daughter was ill.

The report finds that while no federal law and only a few state laws expressly prohibit discrimination against working caregivers, at least 63 local governments in 22 states do. The findings also demonstrate that while the scope of local laws may seem limited, their impact can be pretty significant.

Working caregivers shouldn’t end up unemployed because of their responsibilities at home–but the fact is that they sometimes do. While we may not be able to legislate employer attitudes, we can take responsibility for knowing our rights. Read the report here: “Entitled Caregivers as a Protected Class?: The Growth of State and Local Laws Prohibiting Family Responsibilities Discrimination.”

For more information about each local law collected in the survey, visit www.worklifelaw.org/pubs/LocalFRDLawsDetail.html.

Additional findings of the report can be found after the break.

  • The sizes and types of employers (whether public or private) covered by local FRD laws vary, but most apply to private employers, with some covering businesses as small as those with only one employee.
  • While the vast majority of states have no explicit protections against FRD, laws or regulations in Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia are the exceptions to the rule.
  • States including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have the most protections under local FRD laws, increasing the likelihood that a business or an employee in that state may be covered.

Local governments that have explicitly banned Family Responsibilities Discrimination also include:

• Tucson, Arizona • Atlanta, Georgia • Cook County, Chicago & Champaign, Illinois • Boston, Cambridge & Medford, Massachusetts • St. Paul, Minnesota • Kansas City, Missouri • Tacoma, Washington • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

*This post originally appeared in the SEIU Blog on December 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

Obama's Not Alone: Inviting Cities to the Labor Day Barbecue

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

(Many people view Labor Day as just another day off from work, the end of summer, or a fine day for a barbecue. We think that it’s a holiday with a rich history, and an excellent occasion to examine what workers, and workers rights activism, means to this country. Our Taking Back Labor Day posts in September will do that, from a variety of perspectives, and we hope you’ll tune in and join the discussion!)

*****

We always knew it would take a fight to enact the kinds of sweeping reforms we need to fix the economy so that it really works for working Americans. The Employee Free Choice Act was never set to sail through Congress without opposition from the nation’s most anti-union employers. No one expects that it will be much easier to repair our broken immigration laws, overhaul flawed trade policy, improve retirement security or ensure that parents can finally afford time off work to welcome a newborn. But the sheer nastiness of the health care reform fight begs the question: if even modest reforms are this difficult for a popular Democratic President with large majorities in both chambers of Congress, how will we ever achieve the economic restructuring the nation needs?

One way to improve the odds that working people will have more to celebrate on Labor Days to come is to ensure that our cities get a special invitation to the national policy conversation. Picture it as a giant nationwide barbecue: gathered around the grill, cities can share local policy victories that have measurably improved the lives of their own residents – and can provide a successful model for other cities and for national action. Raising the profile of proven local policies may make the reforms proposed in Washington feel a lot less lonely.

San Francisco can share its own universal health care model, which currently provides 45,000 uninsured city residents with access to affordable primary and preventive care, prescriptions and lab tests through city clinics and participating private hospitals. The track record of Healthy San Francisco, as the program is known, should be informing the national health care debate to a far greater extent than it is.

While they’re talking health, the City by the Bay can also recount its experience guaranteeing everyone employed in the city the opportunity to earn paid sick days – a policy that is projected to reduce costs and improve public health and has not increased unemployment. Washington DC and Milwaukee have already passed weaker versions of this policy. Now New York City is looking to emulate San Francisco’s success. Examples like these can boost national legislation like the Healthy Families Act which would let working people nationwide stop having to make the untenable choice between their health and a needed paycheck.

Minneapolis could also pipe up. The City of Lakes insists that when they provide subsidies for economic development, companies that get public money need to create living wage jobs. The successful policy is a vivid example to cities across the country which regularly provide lucrative private tax breaks only to lure poverty-level jobs.

Then there’s New York, where grassroots organizations citywide have teamed up with the State Department of Labor to educate employees and employers about workplace laws and identify cases where employers are illegally cheating their workers out of pay. The program, known as New York Wage Watch has attracted national controversy because it enlists unions in the effort to detect illegal activity by employers. The debate provides a perfect opportunity to consider which poses a greater threat to the country: the pervasiveness of employers stealing employee wages or the potential for groups – which have no special power to look at a company’s books or confidential documents – to intrude on private business as they uncover illegal activity? Lawbreakers may be right to fear that this local education and monitoring effort could go national.

Finally, Los Angeles should join the party. Home to the nation’s busiest seaport, Los Angeles realized it would never significantly improve air quality as long as the dirty diesel trucks servicing the port were owned by overstretched independent operators without the resources to buy or maintain cleaner vehicles. The city took bold action to both clean up the trucks and transform the drivers from exploited independent contractors into employees with a chance of improving their own working conditions. Not surprisingly, national business interests don’t like the idea of port truckers unionizing. But other port cities are considering the policy, with the potential to improve the quality of both air and jobs.

Federal policy battles cannot be won in a vacuum. Cities and towns across the country demonstrate the success of policies that improve the lives of working people. This is one Labor Day barbecue we should all attend.

About the Author: Amy Traub is the Director of Research at the Drum Major Institute. A native of the Cleveland area, Amy is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago. She received a graduate fellowship to study political science at Columbia University, where she earned her Masters degree in 2001 and completed coursework towards a Ph.D. Her studies focused on comparative political economy, political theory, and social movements. Funded by a field research grant from the Tinker Foundation, Amy conducted original research in Mexico City, exploring the development of the Mexican student movement. Before coming to the Drum Major Institute, Amy headed the research department of a major New York City labor union, where her efforts contributed to the resolution of strikes and successful union organizing campaigns by hundreds of working New Yorkers. She has also been active on the local political scene working with progressive elected officials. Amy resides in Manhattan Valley with her husband.

This blog was originally written for DMI Blog for Labor Day 2009. Re-printed with permission by the author.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

The following is cross-posted on the Winning Workplaces blog. I thought it was appropriate for Today’s Workplace’s focus on taking back Labor Day. After all, this holiday should offer pause not just for workers, but for company leaders to reflect on how they can do more with less in this difficult economic environment. Enjoy, and feel free to drop a comment below.
– MH

According to two new, independent employer studies – this one and this one – while more than half of employers are planning to hire full-time employees over the next year, over half also don’t offer paid maternity leave (and those that do provide only around 50% pay, on average).

This recruiting/retention picture doesn’t add up for me.  Companies that believe they’re seeing light at the end of the economic tunnel should focus on pleasing their current workforce and getting employees engaged – especially if they’ve had to make some wage or other concessions since the beginning of the recession.  This is all part of sharing the recovery as well as the pain with workers.

This is not to say that companies that see more demand shouldn’t hire more talent to meet it.  But while they make plans to do so, they should use this time as an opportunity to ramp up their benefit packages and other methods for improving productivity and commitment so their existing knowledge base is fully on board for the increased workload – and so they can serve as better ambassadors to acclimate new hires to the organizational culture.

Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that the above-mentioned studies represent conflicting human capital strategies?

About the Author: Mark Harbeke ensures that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

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