Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Want a New Job--But About to Give Birth? Better Watch Your Step in Bakersfield

So I open the paper this morning here in my beloved town, the city my babygirl will always proudly be able to proclaim as her birthplace [do I even need to put "sarcasm alert" here?], and what do I find?

New hires stir debate over leave policy:
Two new teachers in the Rosedale Union School District will be on maternity leave before they step into the classroom.

That makes no sense, said a couple of district board members who unsuccessfully tried to stop the hires Monday.

The board of trustees got a recommendation in early July to hire two women who had also asked to immediately go on maternity leave and voted against it 2-2. Then an attorney said that could open the district up to a discrimination suit and so on Monday, the board called a special meeting and approved the hires 3-2.

Other highlights:

"I'm not against pregnant women." That's the board president who didn't want to hire them. [And speaking as a former teacher in a small district, what's up with school-site faculty-level hiring decisions having to be approved by the freakin' board of trustees? Micromanagement, anyone?]

"The preference is always to have the primary teacher (in the classroom), but teachers aren't a certain class of citizens that aren't allowed certain inalienable rights, such as to get pregnant." That's the superindentent.

As this is California's own little Red State theme park amidst the fields of blue, this couldn't go by without comment by the paper's resident conservative columnist, Marylee Shrider:

It's a simple yes-or-no question for all future teacher candidates: Can you fulfill all contractual obligations, including commencement of work through the entire employment period, without any qualification or reservation?

In other words, can you show up for work?

It's a good question. No discrimination, just common sense.

Okay, as a teacher and a parent, I understand the whole "longterm subs=disruption" thing, but it's a little [okay, a lot] disingenous to say that this isn't about discriminating against pregnant women if you're saying that you didn't want to hire them, and wouldn't have if you hadn't been pushed, because they were pregnant and needed to take maternity leave. I mean, do we need to sic Rebel Dad and his trained squad of FMLA defenders on these people, or what?

So, what do you think?

8 comments:

R2Dad said...

I don't find this issue very controversial. Controversial would be 2 male teachers wanting to take paternity leave to support their pregnant wives.
However, sounds like these 2 women are taking advantage of the system and a policy established for long-term employees. No doubt other, more deserving women in that school(s) will now feel pressure to delay their own pregnancies as a result.
I think it is discriminatory to FIRE someone if they are pregnant, but I don't think the law stretches to insist you must hire someone if they are going straight to maternity leave. And, I'm pretty sure both women didn't say in their interviews, "Oh, and by the way, I'm pregnant and will be requiring 9 months of maternity leave before I can work a day for district taxpayers".
In general I'm all for maternity (and paternity) leave in industry, since I believe industry does not do enough for families. But these are most certainly union employees, paid by locals, for a fair days work. Just because you have the muscle of the union behind you doesn't mean what you can get away with is acceptable. I would hate to have my kid scheduled to have temp teachers for an entire year as a consequence.
I will be very curious to know if these 2 women come back to work, since many women decide to stay home after maternity leave; if I was a betting man I would put my money on Home.

The Newbie Dad said...

The State of California actually provides Paid Family Leave Insurance that provides up to six weeks of partial pay for both the mother and father to bond with a new minor child. The program also works for adopted and foster children. The partial pay worked out to about 55% of my salary, which was pretty close to my take home pay offer all of my deductions. That, combined with my PTO made it possible for me to take a month off when our baby was born. I still have 3 weeks left to use before Aidan's first birthday.

More info here -
http://www.edd.ca.gov/fleclmpfltx.htm

As for the 2 women in this article, my knee-jerk reaction is that they're simply gaming the system. Most companies I know of require a probationary period before certain benefits kick-in. It seems like the school district grants full benefits before new employees have fulfilled certain requirements. Again, this is my knee-jerk reaction, not knowing the entire situation and having only worked in the private sector.

Ka_Jun said...

This could be found illegal under the auspices of Title VII. If the decision makers made the decision based on the protected class of the teachers, (i.e. female-pregnant) and the women could illustrate that others not similarly situated were treated differently, (e.g. say indiviudals who had to go out on medical leave were hired and in arguendo, the women WEREN'T hired), then the act of harm would be (failure to hire). They're not eligible for FMLA, but you'd have to look at the agreement that bound the parties, there may have been a collective bargaining agreement, etc. Either way, speaking from experience, I'd rather have statutory protection than not.

superha said...

From a female perspective, I think women should be allowed maternity leave even if it inconveniently starts post hire. If a woman isn't trying to "game" the system and honestly plans to return to work, then it doesn't really matter when she took her leave in the long run.

daddy in a strange land said...

The local paper here ran this unsigned staff editorial today:

http://www.bakersfield.com/135/story/64013.html

Here's how they sum it up:

"Mettler proposes a simple change. He told The Californian he would add a yes or no question to contracts: Can you fulfill all contractual obligations, including the commencement of work through the entire employment period, without any qualification or reservation?

In Mettler's view of the ideal teacher's ideal life, there will be no pregnancies, unexpected illnesses, disabled children, elderly parents, call-ups for military service or other setbacks that the rest of us mortals experience.

That's a class in which no one, not even a teacher, deserves to be placed."

Whatever your take on the whole deserved-vs.-undeserved-benefits-before-new-employee-waiting-period-is-over thing, this is the bigger issue here, which could set a nasty precedent whether you're a woman who wants maternity leave, a man who wants paternity leave, or you're a person of either gender who needs time off for your own or another's illness, or whatever. The Bd. of Trustees president basically wants all new employees to sign a binding document that says you'll never need time off for anything. The federal govt. and state govts. passed FMLA for a reason--and yes I know that teachers aren't usually covered, but still, this is a societal issue. It wasn't too long ago, historically speaking, that school boards could dictate that their female teachers had to be single women who had to quit when they got married.

Chip said...

It seems pretty straightforward to me.

The district interviewed a whole bunch of people. They chose two people who were the best qualified and suited for the job.

These two people happen to be women. And they happen to be pregnant.

I think it's interesting that people are assuming the women are "gaming the system."

Parental leave is a right. That means it is not conditional. There is a reason for that. The reason is that we as a society and Calif as a state (and the school district) have decided that there is a value in allowing parents to take time after the birth of a child to spend full time with that child. This is not unusual, and in fact the US has the weakest laws on parental leave of any developed country.

When my wife was in the corporate world she worked on a team that was all women. Her boss got pregnant and took leave. Then my wife got pregnant and took the regular leave and some unpaid leave. The guys on other teams made cracks about "gaming the system" even though my wife and her boss had worked at the bank for a while, worked very hard, had excellent reviews, etc etc etc. Seems like some built-in anti-woman things going on here.

DISL is right. And what if you check the box and the next week get pregnant? Should you be fired? And what's the difference if they start the job pregnant or get pregnant a month or nine months or a year afterwards? The question is, are these women the best for the job. That has already been answered.

It's sad if we have come to the point where we are going to divide people into those who "deserve" and those who don't "deserve" basic decency.

The Newbie Dad said...

Sorry if I may have come off as anti-parental leave or anti-woman on this issue. First and foremost I fully support parental leave for both parents. I took a month of parental leave when my son was born last December. My manager who is male is expecting a child in September and plans to take a month of parental leave as well. His manager is female and his manager's manager is female. I currently work for a bank, so not all banks frown on parental leave or have an anti-women atmosphere.

For clarification, my parental leave was unpaid. My income was covered by PTO I had saved up and the State of California's Paid Family Leave Insurance. I had to accrue my PTO at work and pay into the State's fund first before I could draw on those benefits.

Let me be clear that these teachers are entitled to parental leave regardless of when they were hired or when they got pregant. The question I should have asked before responding is are they on "paid" maternity leave? I believe that unpaid parental leave is a right, which is also backed up by State and Federal laws.

If this is a case of "paid" leave even before starting work for the district, then the question I have would be are they receiving full pay and benefits? I didn't read the original article, so I don't know whether it's a case of unpaid or paid leave. (The paper wants me to register first.) So my apologies for reacting before finding out the entire story. If this is indeed paid leave with full compensation, then as a taxpayer I would have strong reservations about any policy that grants such benefits before someone even starts working.

I agree with DISL that this is a societal issue that needs addressing. The Bakersfield article sounds like they're advocating that teachers be relegated to some indentured servant status which is just plain wrong.

Aimee said...

I agree with the person who responded that the Board felt these two women were the best candidates. I'm wondering when the interviews were held, because I'm thinking both women should have been visably pregnant by that point, so it must have, at some point, been taken into consideration.

The company I worked for when my daughter was born required employees to be there 1 year before maternity leave and FMLA kicked in. Before that milestone, all maternity/FMLA leave was unpaid. After a year, there was a sliding scale. Employees with up to 5 years of experience there got 55% of their pay; 5+ years got 60% (or maybe more).

I also agree that this is a societal issue. So many in the corporate world "look down" on people starting families or those with small children. They say we try to milk the system. There are studies that show quite the opposite.

This is an issue that should have been discussed during the interview process so that all parties were clear. It's that simple. I think the Board is just trying to be a pain in the neck, to put it nicely.