It didn’t receive much media coverage, but recently CNN and Turner Broadcasting settled an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge with former CNN reporter Josh Levs, who claimed the company’s paid paternal leave policy discriminated against dads.
The settlement, which followed a change to CNN’s paid care-giving leave program allows paid time off to all new parents, is a significant step toward more reasonable paid family leave policies in the United States.
Unfortunately, the U.S. has a lot of ground to make up in that regard.
Only 12 percent of U.S. workers receive paid leave through their employers and only four states have paid family leave programs that give dads time off.
Studies also show that even when dads are able to take time off, doing so often hinders their career progress resulting in lower pay and missed promotions.
Even professional athletes are subject to backlash. St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal recently caught some flack on social media for missing a series to be there for the birth of his child. That comes just a year after New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy was criticized for doing the same.
Those attitudes are extremely discouraging because of the amount of research that suggests paid family leave programs that grant sufficient time off to both mothers and fathers have an overwhelmingly positive impact on society.
From the father’s perspective, paternity leave leads to more engagement in doing tasks like diapering, feeding, dressing and bathing the child, which in turn helps form stronger father-child bonds.
From the mother’s perspective, it can help advance their careers. A study of Sweden’s family leave program discovered mothers’ incomes rose seven percent for every month of leave that the husband took.
And from the business’ perspective, implementing paid paternity leave is likely a profitable long-term investment. A survey of 253 firms in California found that 91 percent of firms said paid family leave had a positive or neutral effect on profitability and employee performance and 89 percent said the same of productivity.
While there is a very long way to go before the majority of the U.S. has even adequate paid family leave policies, it is apparent that times are changing. Levs’ case is just one of several recent high-profile suits regarding companies’ paternity leave policies, and while fathers might not have paid time off to help raise their kids, a recent Pew Research Center analysis found that dads are decreasing the amount of time they spend at work while increasing the time they spend devoted to child care.
Attitudes will need to further evolve before meaningful change happens, but according to those who have fought for better policies, we’re on the right track.
“Across the left and the right and men and women and mom blogs and dad blogs, all these groups across racial spectrums – everything – people were on one side of this issue,” Levs said of his case against Time Warner, “because so many people in the country really want equality, and I came to understand why so many women’s groups were supporting me and men’s groups and what all this meant for equality.
“Time Warner clearly heard that.”