For years now, women have been fighting to receive the same equal treatment as their male counterparts, and we have to admit that we’ve made undeniable progress on that front. Having said that though, have you ever thought of the other side to this coin? That there may be some privileges women enjoy that men don’t?
Well, let’s talk about maternity leave — or paternity leave in this case. For women, time off to bond with their newborns is much more than a privilege – it is a right. We want our kids to get the best start in life, don’t we? And they can only get that if their mothers are right there with them from the moment they draw their first breath. But shouldn’t this be true for their dads too?
Paid Maternity Leave
One of the perks of maternity leave is that although you are off duty, you may receive the same remuneration you would have if you’d clocked in. And as is the norm, maternity leaves are often generous, with the Family and Medical Leave Act providing up to 12 weeks per year. The average, however, is 10 weeks.
To avoid any bias, these leaves are collectively referred to as parental leaves, and the norm is that women get more days compared to their male counterparts. Why is this so? One potential explanation could be that paternity leave wasn’t taken seriously until probably a decade ago.
Since then, men have been fighting to have time off to strengthen the father-child bond, with others asking for as many weeks as their female colleagues get. In fact, there’s a couple suing the international law firm Jones Day on the basis of gender discrimination.
The partners, Julia Sheketoff and Mark Savignac, who are attorneys by profession, are up against their former employer for giving women 18 weeks of paid parental leave, while men have to make do with 10 weeks. The extra 8 weeks that women get, according to the firm’s policy, are referred to as “disability weeks.”
For any lady reading about this, it may seem funny that Mr. Sacignac would want to be treated the same way a new mother should, right? But delving into his school of thought, doesn’t the man just want to be on an equal co-parenting level as the mother of his child? Maybe his complaint in the suit will shed some new light.
As the attorney points out, not all women need the extra number of weeks to recover from the scary yet fulfilling experience that is childbirth. As such, the “disability weeks” policy is discriminatory in that it reinforces the gender-biased stereotype that paints women as caretakers and men as breadwinners.
Peter Romer-Friedman, an Outten & Golden attorney says that although the Jones Day policy doesn’t surprise him, he is disappointed because the existing legislature supports policies that are gender-neutral. He even goes on to point out similar suits brought by male employees against both JPMorgan Chase and CNN, which ended with these organizations settling as there was no way they could win in court.
Kamee Verdrager, a mother who had also sued a major law firm for discrimination a few years back says that although she applauds the move by Mark and Julia to support equal co-parenting, she also feels that women may lose their disability coverage rights if the couple goes on to win this.