The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not guarantee paid leave to new mothers and fathers. For that reason, many new parents have to rush back to work soon after giving birth.
While the calls for guaranteed paid parental leave have been growing in intensity, a new study shows that leave, women are not. Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study shows that from 1994 to 2015, the number of men taking parental leave grew from 5,800 per month to 22,000 per month. The number of women remained static at approximately 273,000 per month. The numbers also found that minority women who had less education were much less likely to take parental leave, whether paid or unpaid.
Could women be too scared to miss work?
The numbers indicate that many women are forgoing leave because of the need to keep earning money and providing for their family. However, could the numbers also mean that many women are more worried than men about taking parental leave out of a fear of negative consequences at work?
Common concerns among working women is that they may be fired, demoted or face some other punishment if they become pregnant. Here in Michigan, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the federal Civil Rights Act protect women from sex discrimination, which includes discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to pregnancy.
That means if you are pregnant or recently gave birth, your employer cannot treat you any differently than a worker with a different medical condition who has to take a leave of absence. This includes taking advantage of unpaid leave guaranteed by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). New fathers are also able to use FMLA leave without fear of job-related consequences.
Talk to a lawyer
There are many stories throughout the years of women recounting how bosses made comments about wishing the woman had not gotten pregnant and missed work or being asked in job interviews if they had any plans to get pregnant. Remember to keep track of any of these comments and note any negative consequences that followed.
If you suspect you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination or are being punished for taking leave as a new father, talk to an experienced employment law attorney about your rights.