Editor’s Note: As teachers in New York City, Matt and I were fortunate to have the option of taking advantage of the “childcare leave of absence” policy for a few years as we stayed home with our children. Matt was the pioneer a few years before me, and I followed suit because the decision for me to stay home made the most sense for our family. Unfortunately, policies are not always as friendly for fathers as they are for moms when it comes to taking leave….and the related paperwork needs to be *updated* as you will learn from this guest blog post from NYC Dads Group member, Jacob Kivett, as he explains what he experienced at work trying to get FMLA when his twins were born. – L.S.
Months before the babies were due I started the conversation with my HR department about taking FMLA leave (Family Medical Leave Act) when our children were born. I am glad I started when I did because the process was a nightmare! The process was so painful you would have thought I was the only dad to ever take this federally protected leave. As it turns out, I was.
From the time I informed my company that I wanted to take leave to the time it was approved took 2 1/2 months and dozens of emails and calls and wasn’t finalized until one week before the babies were born. Not only did it take a long time the paperwork was not written for a fathers and not a single person in our HR department new how to proceed. It wasn’t until our corporate attorney got involved that a patchwork solution occurred.
The problem I faced was that my company hadn’t caught up with the times. Paperwork was skewed to the female point of view. For instance, the form stated I needed to give my company access to medical records for an illness. Last time I checked caring and bonding with your children is not an illness. In the end, I had to give them permission to view my wife’s medical records to prove she was having a baby. What would a Dad do if he was adopting or using a surrogate? On every form I had to cross out “female” and put in “male”.
In the law, http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/ , it states:
- Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
- the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth
Even after I was approved for FMLA the problems continued. The main issue was with the part highlighted above. Even though I had been given approval to take leave intermittently, as the law states, “within one year”, my company started telling me I must show a medical necessity to continue leave because I had returned to work. I was told bluntly, “this is not for childcare”. When I sent them the language in the FMLA law I was told that because I had returned to work after two weeks I was no longer eligible, I should have taken all 12 weeks at once, and that they interpreted the law differently. This from the same people who had approved the leave intermittently in the beginning.
There is clearly a bias in the workplace on Dads that want to care and bond with their children. The world is changing and the old way of Mom staying home with the kids is no longer the only option. My wife and I are very lucky that one of us can stay home and raise our children. It would be great if more companies would recognize that families are changing and the roles of Moms and Dads are not what they used to be.
In the end, I left my job and I am now a full time Dad. The best job I could ever have.
Jacob Kivett lives in New York City and is the father of 4 month old twins. He’s been a stay at home Dad for the last 2 months and you can find his blog at Dad Around Town. This post was cross-posted on his site as well.