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Do Employers Need To Lean In Too? Court Tells Bosses To Bend For Working Families

boss lean inHaving kids really does put pressure on your career. Finding a work-life-family balance is one that every parent struggles with, some more than others. Now, as women are being encouraged to Lean In to succeed in the workplace, that balance could be thrown off even more.

How nice would it be to have a workplace that met you halfway and leaned in too?

Marisa Mayer was appointed CEO of Yahoo! when she was 6 mos pregnant. She took a week off work after the birth, and then pulled in to her corner office – complete with nursery next door – to get to the task of rebuilding the company.  Nearly a year later she is catching heat for calling in employees who work from home.  While the company leaned in for her, she is requesting the employees lean in for the company.

Kara Westerlund is a city councillor in Brazeau County, Alberta. She took a week off when her daughter was born, but then starting bringing her infant to day long council meetings.

Westerlund drew the ire of fellow councillor, Pat Monteith, who wrote to the local newspaper with her displeasure.

“It appears that our new council chambers and meeting room has been turned into a nursery,” wrote Monteith. “I am finding it disruptive and distracting. More importantly, how do you feel about your tax dollars going to pay someone to care for her own child?”

Zutano, a children’s clothing manufacturer, allows children in the workplace for the first year. Considering the company, and the fact it was started by a husband and wife with kids under feet, it makes sense for their culture.

The issue has gone all the way to Federal Court in Canada, where Fiona Johnstone, a border services guard took her employer to court over work schedules.  After having a child, Fiona asked to have a more predictable schedule instead of one that would rotate from days, to evenings, to overnights.  Having a set schedule would allow for her to plan for reliable daycare, she argued. The employer shot back saying having children was a lifestyle choice and not worthy of a bending of rules.  Fiona filed a human rights complaint.

The court sided with the parent.

“The CBSA allowed individualized assessments of employees seeking accommodation on medical or religious grounds but responded to Ms. Johnstone on the basis of a blanket policy that required her to forfeit her status as a full-time employee,” Justice Leonard Mandamin wrote.

“The CBSA’s policy was based on the arbitrary assumption that the need for accommodation on the basis of family obligations was merely the result of choices that individuals make, rather than legitimate need.”

The ruling did make it clear it is on the responsibility of the employee to make reasonable efforts to sort out family obligations before turning to their employer for accomodations. That “reasonable effort” is a little open ended.

Still, isn’t easier to lean in at the boardroom table, when your employer is sitting across from you, also leaning in, ready to meet in the middle?

What’s your take? Should elected officials be allowed to bring infants into public meetings? Would you like to take a pack and play and put it in your office? Should you be allowed a stable work schedule to organize child care?

Image via iStockPhoto

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