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Friday

Trying to Have it all in the Midst of a Maternity Leave Crisis #Election2016

At WPXI Studios

Recently, I was  guest on PCNC Night Talk discussing issues relevant to working moms during this presidential election season. One of the topics I mentioned was mandatory maternity leave. This issue is ripe for this election and those pursuing the presidency because many working moms are forced to return to work too soon—before they are able to healthily do so and before they are able to provide a healthy framework for their babies.

The Existing Federal Protections for Working Moms Are Inadequate


The two primary federal laws protecting pregnant workers (The PDA and FMLA) and working moms are below. (I also have included the ADA, which applies in more limited circumstances.)

  1. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed in 1978, gives pregnant women the same rights as others with "medical conditions" by prohibiting job discrimination. 
  2. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The Family and Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993, applies to companies that employ 50 or more people within a 75-mile radius of the workplace. It says that if you have been employed for at least one year by the company you now work for, and work at least 25 hours a week, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in any 12-month period for the birth of your baby.
  3. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA does provide protections for workers who experience pregnancy related complications that "substantially limit major life activities" constituting disabilities. While the 2008 amendments expanded this acts coverage, it still excludes a large portion of women and very little protection post-pregnancy. 

Many American Women Cannot Have it All Because They Lack Leave Benefits



These laws are a start, but they are inadequate. The numbers tell the story. I recently came across a new report that enlightened me. Even though I am well educated about this topic, I was surprised by a recent publication that reported the following statistics: 88% of American women have no paid maternity leave, 50% of American women are ineligible for unpaid leave, and 23% of American women return to work within two weeks of giving birth.

This is deplorable and a public health problem. The benefits of breastfeeding on the health of infants is well established. Indeed, The Joint Commission has an entire initiative for member hospitals to promote breastfeeding at their facilities. And a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics  proves that the longer a working mom takes on maternity leave the more likely she will breast feed her baby for longer than three months. This does not even address the other benefits to mom and baby for having more uninterrupted time together during those early days of life. 

What Can You Do? Contact Your Congressional Representative  


One of the reasons I maintain this blog is to contribute to the national conversation about mandatory paid parental leave. I have been researching this issue for some time and follow the related news reports. This report is startling. 

Every American woman, and those who love them, should be galvanized by this report and work to make a difference. I encourage you to read this paper by the Voter Participation Center to familiarize yourself with the issues. Also, contact your congressional representative and let them know this issue matters to you. You may question whether efforts like that matter, but they do. 

Here is a link to identifying your congressional representative: Find Your Congressional Representative
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