Working fathers scored a victory last year for achieving equal status in parental leave polices when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided men should be entitled to the same rights as women in the workplace who choose to take time off in order to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.
The EEOC made history in July 2015 when it issued guidance stating that companies must provide equal bonding leave for male and female employees.
“There is a viewpoint that still exists in some workplaces that men should stay at work,” said Tom Spiggle, author of “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired!: Mothers, Fathers and Other Caregivers in the Workplace.” In that line of thinking, he said, “If someone is going to stay at home with the children, it should be the wife.
“There have been some cases where a man has taken family medical leave to be with a newborn child and was penalized later in the workplace for taking that leave,” said Mr. Spiggle, an Arlington, Va.-based lawyer who represents employees in workplace discrimination cases. “That is illegal under the Family Medical leave Act.”
The issue has prompted several lawsuits in recent years brought by new fathers against their employers.
CNN and Turner Broadcasting last year settled an EEOC charge with a former CNN correspondent who claimed the company’s paid parental leave policy discriminated against biological fathers. In 2013, an air traffic controller settled a complaint against the Transportation Department claiming sex discrimination when the federal agency denied him several days of child care leave that it granted to mothers in 2007.
Thanks to an effort led by councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, the city of Pittsburgh last year passed paid parental leave for city workers which allows all parents to receive six weeks of paid leave at full pay following the birth of a child, an adoption or a new foster arrangement.
Mothers, however, are eligible for an additional six weeks of short-term disability immediately after giving birth, according to Molly Byrnes, employee leaves program coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh. The first three weeks must be used as either vacation time, personal time or comp time. They receive 50 percent to 60 percent of their pay the other three weeks under the short-term disability policy. Mothers can take their six weeks of paid parental leave at 100 percent pay at anytime during the first year after childbirth, Ms. Byrnes said.
Pittsburgh city councilman Dan Gilman, who represents District 8, recently announced that he will be taking time off to stay home with his wife and newborn when the child is born sometime next month.
“As someone who is approaching fatherhood for the first time, my wife and I see raising our child as a team effort in terms of caring for our child and supporting each other,” Mr. Gilman said. “The idea that we stress strong family values in this country but either don’t offer paid family leave or punish mothers and fathers for taking it is completely contradictory.
“Unfortunately the city is not allowed to mandate paid leave on private industry, but what we can do is be an industry leader in showing how we can treat our employees the way all Americans should be treated.”
Mr. Spiggle said under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, companies with 50 or more employees are required to allow new parents up to 12 weeks of leave. Companies are not required to make it paid leave.
He said the EEOC decision on parental leave is not a law, but is instead called “guidance.” Companies are not bound to it, but the commission is in charge of interpreting employment law, so courts look to the EEOC for guidance.
“It’s a big deal for men in the workplace,” Mr. Spiggle said. “Women can still get additional time to recover from child birth. But they cannot get more time than men for bonding.”
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