Equal Treatment for All Parental Bonding Leaves
By Michael Lacroix, PhD
Associate Medical Director
By Janîce Beeker, JD
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 mandated a right to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for various reasons, including pregnancy, to help new mothers recover from childbirth, and to facilitate parents bonding with their newborns and newly adopted children.
Even back then the concept was not new; many progressive employers were already providing maternity leaves. And since then, progressive employers have gone beyond the FMLA’s minimum requirements and extended paid company parental leaves to both biological and adopted parents. However, we find considerable variability in employer leave policies governing childbirth, bonding, or adoption. In some cases, employers grant fathers less company parental leave than mothers, or adopted parents less parental leave than biological parents.
In this area, issues of discrimination can creep in without well-meaning employers realizing it. While it is not discriminatory for employers to give female employees whatever amount of time or financial benefit they see fit as it relates to pregnancy/maternity-related disability leaves (even if these leaves are richer than other disabilities), it is discriminatory for employers to give different levels of benefits for employees to bond with/care for new children.
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