A dad is suing the law firm where he used to work as an associate for retaliating after he took a parental leave. Though his leave was protected by FMLA, he lost his job four months after returning to work.
He says the two are directly connected, and that the “macho culture” in his law office created an atmosphere that led to his being punished and eventually fired for putting his family first.
Ariel Ayanna says the senior people in his workplace regularly bragged about how little time they spent on family obligations, while Ayanna took time off to care for his newborn child and mentally ill wife.
The case has grabbed attention from work/life balance advocates, who point out that men are an increasingly important part of the conversation. Cases like this one demonstrate that work/life balance isn’t strictly a women’s issue. Men have childcare obligations as well, and increasingly need to balance their family needs against their careers.
The American Bar Association Journal says a generational clash is emerging between older men who see their role in the family as strictly that of a provider, and younger men who are defining themselves as nurturing fathers.
As gender wars heat up between older and younger men, it brings the tension of work-life balance into the headlines, and makes it more visible in the workplace. Ayanna’s lawyer says she sees his case as important from a feminist perspective.
I have to agree. The more it becomes culturally acceptable for men to take a full paternity leave, the more normal it will become for men and women to fully share parenting duties. That’s a win for people of all genders.
Additionally, when work-life balance is seen as affecting men as much as women, we can hope that will increase the pressure on lawmakers and businesses to enact truly family-friendly policies. Perhaps the United States will finally join the rest of the developed world in offering paid parental leave benefits.