CNN reporter Josh Levs announced that he and his lawyers have filed a charge against Time Warner, his parent company, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming that the company’s paid family leave policy discriminates against new biological fathers.
Writing about the claim on his Tumblr on Wednesday, he says that the company’s rules permit all parents of new children to take 10 paid weeks off but not biological fathers, who are only granted two weeks. This is due to a patchwork of company policies: women who give birth get 10 paid weeks off, as do new parents with new children through adoption or surrogacy. But new biological fathers aren’t covered.
Levs says that for two months he tried to get the company to undo that loophole, bringing the issue as far as the CEO. But it rejected his request last week, 11 days after his child was born and while he was already out of work to care for her. “Under Time Warner rules, I have only two choices: stay out for 10 weeks without pay, or return to work and hire someone to come to our home each day,” he writes. “Neither is financially tenable, and the fact that only biological dads face this choice at this point in a newborn’s life is ludicrous.” Now that his two weeks of paid leave have run out, he’s using days from the company’s paid time off policy, but he will have to go back to work next week if nothing changes.
“I can’t sit by and allow this inequality,” he says. “It’s unfair to my wife and family, and to other dads and their families.”
In an emailed statement, a Time Warner spokesman said, “We don’t comment on pending legal matters, however it should be noted that Time Warner and its businesses have been recognized for providing employees with some of the most progressive and inclusive benefits available. The company’s parental leave policy is fair, non-discriminatory, flexible and available to all employees.”
Despite the discrimination Levs says he is facing, he is actually lucky among new fathers in the U.S. Only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public sector workers have access to paid maternity leave through their employers, not to mention paternity leave, which is more scarce. New parents of either gender aren’t guaranteed any paid leave under federal law, only 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they work at a company with 50 or more employees. But about 5 percent of covered workers report needing to take leave but being unable to do so, and nearly half say it was because they couldn’t afford it. And given restrictions in the law, 40 percent of workers aren’t even covered by those protections. Meanwhile, at least 175 other countries guarantee mothers paid time off for a new baby and more than 50 offer the same to fathers.
Three states have enacted paid family leave policies: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Washington state passed a law in 2007 but it has been implementation has been so stalled that it looks unlikely to take effect any time soon. Connecticut took a step toward enacting a similar policy in June with a task force that will study the feasibility of implementing it.
To make sure that all workers have access to paid leave for a new child, the Center for American Progress has proposed Social Security Cares, a nationwide program that would allow workers to pay into family leave through Social Security payroll deductions. Paid family leave proposals are part of a new campaign from major progressive organizations called Fair Shot and have been included in legislative packages by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).