YES! In the battle for gender equality, which unites moms and dads, we should stop and celebrate achievements as they come along. Today, we’ve had one.
Time Warner, one of the biggest corporations on Earth, clearly heard your voices. It heard you speak out against a discriminatory policy. Now, it has issued a new policy that marks a vast improvement.
I thank you. My family thanks you. Your support every step of the way has meant more than you can know.
Perhaps Time Warner learned what numerous other companies big and small are doing to advance their policies into the modern age, avoid discrimination, attract and retain employees, and increase the bottom line. As President Obama noted accurately last week, paid leave isn’t just better for women and men. It’s better for business. (I’ll explain this and a lot more in a book next spring - more on that later.)
Because these policies are so complicated, I want to lay out for you exactly what Time Warner did, based on an initial analysis by me and my legal team. The company put new language into its benefits guide for 2015. Now, any parent, whether adoptive or biological, can get six paid weeks of parental/bonding leave. For women who give birth, this is in addition to short-term disability pay after a birth. So, as a result of this change, biological mothers and fathers will get substantially more time off after having a child. (I had no idea this change was coming, but was hopeful the company would listen to my arguments and improve its policy.)
Last year, I took action against Time Warner’s discrimination. I was needed at home to care for my newborn daughter. As I explained at the time, Time Warner allowed any parent to have 10 paid weeks after a birth — except a biological father whose baby came about the traditional way. If I had put my daughter up for adoption and another guy at Time Warner adopted her, he would have gotten the time. If my daughter were from someone else’s sperm, I would legally have had to adopt her, so I would have gotten the time. If we had used a surrogate, I would have gotten the time. Even some people who were not legally parents but were taking care of the children could get the time. But not a man who used his own biology to impregnate the baby’s mother. If, heaven forbid, an employee’s wife died in childbirth, he would still only have gotten two paid weeks to take care of his child under that policy. (Inc.com called it the #2 “HR fail” of the year.)
The new policy for 2015 allows six paid weeks across the board for everyone with a new baby. So every father in all of Time Warner has the option of six paid weeks to stay home and be caregiver after a birth. That’s a giant leap up from two weeks. But this isn’t just about men. It’s a critical women’s rights issue. When there’s no paid leave for men or only a token amount, women end up staying home even if the couple would otherwise make a non-traditional choice. That, in turn, keeps sexist cycles and expectations in place.
Also under Time Warner’s new policy, the company will pay women for bonding leave after giving birth. Until now, the only leave given to women after a birth was charged to the company’s disability insurance. That meant that if a woman was deemed physically capable of coming back to work after only a few weeks, she was technically required to. Not anymore. Women will now have more overall paid weeks at home with their newborns after giving birth.
I would love for Time Warner to offer more than six paid weeks for bonding leave. Ideally 10 for starters, since that’s an amount the company previously professed to believe in, offering it to adoptive and surrogate parents. The new policy actually reduces the total amount of time adoptive and surrogate parents get, from 10 weeks to six. That’s not just bad, it’s counterproductive. Other companies, big and small, have found that 10 weeks or even more is good for business. The simplest and most sensible change for Time Warner to make would have been to allow biological fathers to access the same 10 weeks.
Still, the overwhelming majority of parents in Time Warner will come out ahead tremendously from the new policy. Imagine the difference it will make for parents to know they have the option of taking this paid time off to take care of their newborns. They’ll be free to make the decisions that work best for their families, regardless of traditional gender roles.
You might wonder how all this paid time benefits a corporate bottom line. The journey of writing a book, Stretch Out, has shown me. To build a stronger nation and stronger economy, we need these kinds of policies, and not just for parents. Paid leave should be allowed for people to take care of any family member, including a parent, spouse, or sibling. When you follow the money, you see that this is not about companies giving away money to people who aren’t working. With the right policies in place, it doesn’t have to cost businesses a cent. It’s actually a very smart investment that expands profits and the economy. Skeptical? I don’t blame you. I was too. I promise to lay it all out clearly in the book, coming in May.
As parents, we’re stretched out like never before, doing all sorts of tasks both at work and at home. Today’s moms are Elastigirl. Dads are Stretch Armstrong. But many structures shaping family life — including policies, laws, and expectations — haven’t kept up with this reality. They’re straight out of the 1950s, and boxing us in. Women can’t “lean in,” as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, until these structures stretch out. As a nation of parental superheroes, we can summon our collective strength to make that happen.
But that’s for a later time. For now, please feel pride. All of you who have expressed support, posted messages on social media, written articles and blog posts, told your friends, or in any other way pushed against this discrimination, it worked. Now, many parents throughout Time Warner will have more crucial time with their babies. That’s priceless. Thank You.
For legal questions, contact my attorney Andrew Coffman of Parks, Chesin & Walbert: acoffman @ pcwlawfirm . com / (404)873-8000
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