I worked full-time as a producer for a Salt Lake City news station when I gave birth to both my children. I absolutely cannot fathom not having the maternity leave offered as a part of my health insurance. It was six weeks of full pay and six weeks of 60% pay. Which, is actually very good compared to what many other American women are offered. Don’t get me started on maternity leave in America in general, which is terrible.
Point is, I would never have made it had I not had those weeks of maternity leave and not because I needed the time to recover from giving birth but because I desperately needed that time to bond with each baby.
That’s why I was so shocked to see that a new mom of twins was denied maternity leave.
Kara Krill is suing Cubist Pharmaceuticals for discrimination and breach of contract after she says the company denied her paid maternity leave to which she was entitled following the birth of her twins in May by a surrogate.
As Belinda Luscombe writes over at TIME, Krill gave birth to a child in 2007 but was then diagnosed with Asherman’s syndrome. Basically, that means scar tissue in the uterus left her unable to have children. So she and her husband decided to use a surrogate to have another child.
Krill received 13 weeks of paid maternity leave from Cubist after the birth of her first child and tells TIME she was looking forward to the same after the twins her surrogate was carrying arrived. Her employer saw things a little differently, however. They gave her just five days of paid leave under the company’s adoption leave policy, but no paid time under the company’s maternity leave policy.
As Luscombe reports, “Cubist offers parents five days of paid leave plus $4,000 for adoption costs under its adoption leave policy; the company gives new fathers the same amount of paid time for paternity leave.”
Krill’s lawsuit argues that since she and her husband are the biological parents of their children without having to adopt, she should be given the same paid maternity leave benefits as every other biological mother in the company. Were it not for her reproductive disability she would be receiving paid maternity leave, Krill’s complaint states. Not only that, but as ABC News reports, her boss harassed her for asking for maternity leave:
Her supervisor “told her pointedly on several different occasions that she should not be entitled to any leave from Cubist for the birth of her children, whether paid or unpaid,” according to court documents.
When Krill informed her supervisor she was required to be with her newborn children for a minimum of 12 weeks, her supervisor told Krill that she could “‘put [her] twins in daycare,’ so she could come back to work sooner.'” Her supervisor also informed Krill she was “changing her sales quota expectations and taking away one of Krill’s largest customer accounts and assigning it to another Cubist employee who was not disabled, and not going out on maternity leave.
Because surrogacy isn’t as common as a woman giving birth to her own child, the issue is murky and raises the question of why maternity leave is granted in the first place.
Is it so women can recover from the physical trauma of giving birth? Or, as Luscombe speculates, should maternity leave be viewed in the same way as paid leave for jury duty — something a company does out of civic responsibility? “Supporting new mothers as they bond with their children, learn to care for them and give them a good start is beneficial for society and for the survival of the species.”
I think Krill’s case will be decided after a judge takes a magnifying glass to Cubist’s maternity leave policy. But hopefully the case will shine a spotlight on the issue and the obvious need for legislation that entitles a new mom to compensation while she bonds with her baby. If anyone needs maternity leave, it’s a new mom of twins, for crying out loud.
Legally speaking, Krill may be out of luck if it’s paid maternity leave she’s after. TIME reports:
Massachusetts does not mandate paid maternity leave, only unpaid. And in most workplaces, maternity leave is granted as part of a company’s provision for disability leave. But that’s always been a slightly odd arrangement, since bearing and delivering a child is one of the most able-bodied things a woman can do
Exactly. Sure, my lady parts needed time to heal after childbirth, but truth be told, I could have dragged ass into work and done my job while sitting at my desk. It’s that special time with your newborn that is so very crucial and legislation is needed to assure that every new mom – regardless of how her child came to be – receives that time with her children, including the mothers of adopted children under a certain age.
What do you think? Should maternity leave be required for all moms regardless of how their children were born? Or should it be regarded as a physical recovery only and provided as part of a company’s disability/medical leave?
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