& Leave Act Essay, Research Paper
The Family Medical & Leave Act
When President Clinton signed the Family Medical & Leave Act in 1993, he created a brand new avenue for American workers to manage their work-life balance. Thus far, the act has helped thousands of families focus on spending time with their kids during the times in life when parents are needed most. New mothers now have the security of knowing that when they take a maternity leave, there will be a job waiting for them if they decide to return. The other major advantage is that it has allowed families with troubled children to play a more influential part in helping their children turn themselves around.
Ever since the act took effect, numerous studies have taken place about its effectiveness. Employees and employers have also challenged it. State and local governments have taken the act and expanded upon it, making it ever more useful. This paper will examine some of these stories and discuss the possible ramifications of these events.
The Level of Benefit:
A study in March of this year, conducted by Children Defense Fund of Minnesota, showed that only 4% of Minnesota employers offer paid leave for new parents. The federal law requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave at companies with fifty or more employees. The Minnesota law required only six weeks of unpaid leave at companies with twenty or more employees.
The Children?s Defense Fund is proposing a voluntary program that would use state tax money to cover up to 1/3 of the salary of any parent on leave if the employer covers at least another third. If this legislation passes, it could make it much more realistic for parents to take the entire time allotted to them off.
President Clinton said in February 2000 that he would like to expand the act to include twelve week paid vacations for new parents. He proposes allowing states to use excess employment funds paid for by business. The one major drawback of this proposal is that unemployment insurance is paid to states by business as a buffer against temporary economic downturn. Using these funds for more general purposes could cause these funds to bankrupt if a recession were to occur. 20 million employees out of an eligible workforce of 92 million have used the act at least once.
Recently, Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed employees to use family leave to care for a domestic partner. This bill would have expanded leave to include care for siblings, adult children, and grandparents.
Opposition to the bill stemmed from the possibility that people may apply the bill to care for their homosexual ?life partners?. Jeff Sheehy, director of Equal Benefits Advocates stated in response to the governor?s decision ?He?s denying us our basic humanity. He?s saying our partners aren?t as important as his wife.? In a state that has a high homosexual population, this is a move that may play a major role in Gov. Davis? re-election campaign.
As recently as May 10th of this year, the Family Medical & Leave Act has been challenged. Gerard McDavitt, former Vice President of Hill Holliday Connors Cosmopulos, a Boston advertising agency, is suing his former employer for violations under the act. Mr. McDavitt was fired while on leave for cancer treatments and its related depression.
The agency claims that McDavitt had taken four weeks more than the act had allowed, and that?s why he was fired. McDavitt countered that his supervisor had told him to ?take as much time away as needed?. McDavitt claims that he continued to work from home during that time. McDavitt?s leave was being fully funded by the company.
Even an act that is 198 pages long can be interpreted as vague. Seven years after its implementation, there remains a lot to be discussed and discovered.
The Mommy Track
What comes first, a family or a career? The career track VS. the parent track. Do you build a family once you have securely established yourself in the workplace, knowing that you will be able to finance such a task? Or do you find a spouse who will support you and have children before you get to wrapped up in your career, since you could miss your child’s adolescence? Isn’t that why you wanted the child in the first place, to watch the child grow and become the person that you shaped them to be? The “right” answer is hard to define, but for those who choose to build a family after they have already started their career, there may be problems ahead. This is why businesses and corporations have been offering employees and opportunity to use “The Mommy Track” for over a decade. The mommy track gives parents the opportunity to work for their employers on a smaller time scale than the regularly expected 40-hr. workweek. In return for the added flexibility to their schedules, parents may sometimes agree to take a pay cut or even a less desirable position in the company till they feel that they can go back to their previously required hours. From there, however, it is up to the parents to appropriately allocate their time between their careers and family. “If a child gets sick, who cancels their patients? My husband is more flexible than a lot of people, but I thing it’s been clear since I went part-time that my career is secondary to his” (Connor, Lee Lusardi). Some employers have a clause written into the employee’s contracts saying that the “flex” time is given to them for no penalty at all. It is far easier for the parent to stay at home with the child rather than having the parent bring the child into the office where it could cause many more disturbances. Most employers, however, let parents do their work out of their homes, essentially killing two birds with one stone. There, the parents can watch their children while doing work when the child is sleeping or being entertained by something else.
Parents may think that their company is doing them a huge favor by presenting them with the opportunity to take the mommy track, but some companies may have ulterior motives. “The cost of employing women in management is greater than the cost of employing men. The rate of turnover in management positions is two and half times higher among top-performing women than it is among men” (Schwartz, Felice). For this reason, many companies feel that their investment in training the parent for the job is far greater than giving losing a few dollars caused by the absence of the parent from the work place. If the business decided to fire the parent, the corporation would still have to spend time and money finding and training a new individual to take the parents’ place. This parent could also do the same thing a few years down the road. Schwartz also goes on to say that parents “are willing to trade some career growth and compensation for freedom from the constant pressure to work for long hours and weekends. By forcing these women to choose between family and career, companies lose a valuable resource and a competitive advantage” (Schwartz, Felice).
The mommy track or the parent track, however, can sometimes turn into the “parent trap”. “On the mommy track you are perceived as being less committed to your job and the quality of your work. Career advancement slows down?as does salary advancement?and you may start getting less desirable assignments and few opportunities to grow in your job. You’re still productive, sharp and committed, but you’ve fallen off the radar screen when it comes to promotions, bonuses, or high-profile projects” (Connor, Lee Lusardi).
Choosing to have a family is very difficult when you also have a career to think about. Parents must be well aware of the consequences of having a child or starting a family amidst their developing career and must be willing to give up time on money from their job if they are willing to make their family work. If nothing else, parents owe it to their children to make an effort to guide them through their beginning stages of life and consequently their most important.
Managerial Gender Differences
The differences in gender based managerial styles are quite profound. It is important to keep in mind that these are generalizations and not always true. The business world is almost always a ?mans? work place. This is only because men have dominated the work place in the recent past. Slowly, as more and more women enter the work place, this is becoming less and less true. A main point to remember is even though it may seem that women need to conform to ?men?s? rules in order for them to be successful, men will also benefit by being better managers of women if they understand the differences.
In business, competition is the name of the game. There is always a winner and there is always a loser. This is because boys grow up playing war games and competing with one another in large groups. On the other hand girls grow up playing house with their best friend. These differences can be linked to the differences in grown women and men. In the workplace, in which men dominate, one of the most common areas women are scolded for is not being a team player. After taking a look at the differences between what a woman thinks is a good team player vs. what a man thinks, the reason for this becomes obvious. ?Men grow up learning to sacrifice self for the good of the team. They understand that being a good team player means carrying out the agenda of those above them in the hierarchy. ? Women grow up attempting to find a win/win solution that meets everybody?s needs. For them, doing good work as an individual means being a good team player.? (Heim, Pat) For a woman it is important to remember that they need to be a supportive team player and not a lone gun. For men it is important for them to realize this difference does exist.
Another area that becomes a problem for women in the ?mans? work place is the use of nonverbal cues. ??women often smile when they feel vulnerable. ? If a supervisor criticizes a woman?s idea as ridiculous, the latter often smiles and unintentionally signals vulnerability.? (Heim, Pat) Not only is smiling too much a problem for women, but head nodding can be too. ?When women listen during a conversation, they tend to nod unconsciously as if to say, ?I heard you.? The gesture doesn?t necessarily mean they agree. Men, on the other hand, nod assent.? (Heim, Pat) Most people never think twice about their body language. They do whatever comes natural to them. Sometimes though this can get you into serious trouble. It?s important to keep these few issues in mind while talking to people.
These are two key areas that women can unwittingly send a mixed signal or even worse send the wrong signal. Keeping these few differences in mind will enable better communication in the workplace and out of it.
Hardball for Women, by Pat Heim Ph. D. 1993 by the Penguin Group