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CustomFit Workplace blog

The CustomFit Workplace blog is part of the MomsRising.org Open, Flexible Work blog. It is a place where workers, managers, educators and Human Resources professionals can share their insights and questions. The views expressed in this blogs aren't necessarily representative of the CustomFitWorkplace.org initiative or of MomsRising.org policy positions. Interested in blogging? drop us a line

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Real Nurturing Leave

When my partner and I were graced with the news that we were expecting our first child, I was in my fifth year of service as an assistant professor in a research university. Tenure reviews are generally scheduled for the sixth year of service. Thus, in the academic profession, this is the crucial time when a scholar is expected to “publish or perish.” Usually connoting lifetime job security and academic freedom, tenure is one of the great blessings a college or university can award a professor. Conversely, however, being denied tenure (and thus losing one’s job) can act as a major setback to a life and career.

Marvin, Tammi, Misha and Daddy

When my wife and I adopted Misha Gabrielle, our oldest daughter was a two-week old infant in the late summer of 1998, the last thing we had thought about was my paternity leave. My wife was working at a relatively progressive college, and she was able to take eight weeks off before returning to work as an administrator. It had never occurred to me to ask for such a leave at my own institution—not nearly as progressive—and among a decidedly older generation of colleagues for which men asking for such leaves was unfathomable. As an academic though, I also knew that I had the kind of flexibility where I could be more of a hands-on parent than many of my professional and working-class male peers.

Fathers on Family Leave Blog Carnival

Father’s Day is a great time to reflect on the joys, struggles, challenges and epiphanies that come with fatherhood. I’m honored to introduce this MomsRising.org Blog Carnival that focuses on the early days of fatherhood – Fathers on Family Leave, with revealing stories from dads about their introduction to fatherhood.

Like me, there are other fathers for whom the arrival of their children was revelation to the important demands of child care. However, I had the privilege of paid family leave – a privilege that seems to bestowed by chance in this country. Based on data the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 % of private firm workers and 16% of state and local government employees have access to any paid family leave at all. Only 40 % of workers have access to unpaid, job-protected leave, but many can’t afford to take time away from work without pay, and far far too many parents struggle with absolutely no job-protected leave, paid or unpaid. To be in this in an even more apparent context, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country without a paid family leave policy.

An Organizing Dad

I’m a Dad. Even three years and two kids later, defining myself in that way still seems somewhat surreal.

I’m also a Community Organizer.  I have been for 13 years… and believe me that’s often very surreal as well.

You see, the life of an Organizer isn’t like most. You are seen as a community resource, on call 24-7, traveling to and fro, reacting to the latest news, rallying the tired masses, dealing with setbacks, navigating the highs and lows, so on and so forth. Hmm, wait that’s sort of like being a … Dad!

As I think about this Father’s Day, the fact is that my life as a working, organizing, advocating Dad meshes together in some strange and fascinating ways. It’s a balancing act and I often fall down, but with love and support from my family and flexibility and understanding from my employer I’m making it work.

Supporting LGBT Workers and Their Families in Times of Need

Every day, LGBT Americans face unexpected emergencies or life events requiring their care and attention—a worker comes down with the flu, a child is born, an adoption is finalized, a sick child is sent home from school, an elderly loved one is hospitalized. Many LGBT workers learn at these critical moments that their employers provide little or no time off and fail to recognize their families. This lack of support and recognition can have devastating consequences for LGBT working families. Due to high rates of poverty and health disparities in the LGBT community, LGBT workers urgently need laws that guarantee paid leave for health and family needs.

Investing in families pays off

The birth of my daughter came just about 1 year after starting a new job in the non-profit sector. I was fortunate in that the organization I work for is run by warm and kind people who appreciate and value the staff. Our staff of seven people were also fairly young on average when I started, and so the arrival of my child would be the first one of anyone on staff at the time. Luckily, the organization had and maintains a clear parental leave policy, a policy that I’ve found is much better than most similar sized organizations.

I was able to spend the first three weeks of my daughter’s life at home with her and the next two weeks working part-time. Spending most of this first month of my daughter’s life with her and my wife was one of the most special and cherished times in my life. It brought our entire family closer together and allowed me to support my wife through the ups and downs of motherhood. Having done this, I can’t imagine not having been there through this amazing time and it saddens me that other fathers aren’t given this opportunity.

The Evolving Role of Men Regarding Work and Family Leave

In addition to the individual stories being shared for the Father’s Day blog festival for MomsRising.org, I wanted to provide an overall discussion of the rapidly changing role of men in this discussion around a workplace supportive of employees and their family responsibilities. Often when there is excellent discourse around the role of working mothers in the workplace and the ways that corporations can fully support this segment of the work force, so often the men who are also now taking an increasing role in family life are forgotten.

As a long time diversity professional and consultant, I would like to make some observations and assertions:

1. Over the past few decades, men have taken an increasing level of participation in family responsibilities. This can include attending children’s events, handling children’s emergencies and even staying home with small children. In addition men are taking on a more active role of caring for aging parents.

Family leave and self-employment

I just watched my three year old “graduate” from her first year of preschool. It was a cute ceremony, and the room was filled with parents that sat in long rows with their cameras trained on the kids up front. But it’s also 11am on a Friday, and that means I was one of the only dads in the room.

There were several moms who couldn’t make it, too. Most parents have to do what their jobs demand. But seven years ago my wife and I began to arrange our careers in a way that would let us both be present for the important moments in our (future) kids lives. When we decided to start our photography business, a lot of people asked why we didn’t want to wait a few years for us to be more established financially. In part, the answer was that I wouldn’t let myself take such a big risk while having kids to feed. I wanted the business itself to be more established by the time we did have kids, because one of the main reasons we started the business in the first place was to be able to parent on our own terms.

Unanticipated rewards

Here’s  a quiz: see if you can figure out what kind of dad I am.

If you ask them, my children may very well tell you I am their “fake daddy”. My children are not biologically related to me, don’t share my last name, and they all don’t even currently live with me. But I can assure you, I’m a real dad when it counts: like at 3am when you’ve had a bad dream, when you skin your knee riding your bike, or when your real parents are having a bit of a problem.

Time’s up. Final answer?

I am a foster dad.

While our family was not created in the traditional way, my wife and I decided that we wanted to open our home to children who need us, whatever that reason may be. We currently have an adorable 5-month-old boy, but we have had toddlers and school-aged children too. In all, we’ve had five foster children pass through our home, and we anticipate having at least a few more.

Fathers have become unicorns

Fatherhood is a lifestyle. Fatherhood should not just something that you get to do after work, on the weekends or when you are allowed to by the courts or the mother. Fathers live for the betterment of the lives of their children. It is very disturbing that we live in a society that has bestowed the title of ‘father’ so haphazardly within our society on generally self-centered men. Self-centered men are daddies. Family-centered men are fathers. The two terms embody two different ideals, actions and mindsets. Yet, in our society, daddies and fathers have become interchangeable. So in a society used to the presence of ‘daddies’, it is of little surprise that ‘fathers’ have become like unicorns.

Happy 50th Birthday, Equal Pay Act!

By Lenora M. Lapidus, Women’s Rights Project, ACLU

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. On June 10, 1963, Congress enacted the first law to require employers to pay women the same salaries that they pay men. When the law was enacted, I was not quite one month old.


Equal Pay Today!

My mother fought for passage of the EPA. She brought me, her newborn baby, to a march on Washington to demand equal pay for women. My childhood was permeated with debates about “Women’s Lib.” Although she, like my father, was a university professor, prior to passage of the EPA, Columbia University could pay her less than it paid my dad, simply because she was a woman. Passage of the Equal Pay Act was the first major victory of the “second wave” women’s movement.


May 17, 1963: the day Lenora was born

Working Moms Just Blamed (Again)!?

 Deep breath. Count to 10. Can’t. Believe. He. Really. Said. That.

Yesterday at a Washington Post event, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) said that America is so “mediocre” in educational outcomes because “mom is in the workplace.”

… oh REALLY?!

There is steam coming out of the ears of moms across America.

Governor Bryant deserves a Hall of Shame trophy for blaming moms (moms!) for the failure of our nation’s leaders to step up. But before that Hall of Shame of shame is built, the moms of America need an apology from him.

The problem in our nation isn’t that moms are working, it’s that our nation isn’t working for moms.

And Governor Bryant isn’t insulting a small number of people here: Most women (over 80 percent!) become moms at some point in their lives.

Pay Gap Deniers

Steve Tobak, a Silicon Valley consultant, reassured his Fox Business audience that “The Gender Pay Gap is a Myth,” recycling a 2009 report commissioned by the Bush Department of Labor arguing that women’s choices, not discrimination, account for the wage gap between men and women.

Next week is the anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act. Is it time to declare victory? The standard pay gap measure, which greatly exaggerates women’s economic equality, is that women now earn 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. Maybe so, argue Pay Gap Deniers, but that’s due to women’s choices, not to gender discrimination.

A Victory for Workers, a Victory for Families

By Mie Lewis, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project

This week, an Ohio federal jury awarded Christa Dias $171,000 after she was fired from her part-time teaching jobs at two religious schools. Dias had alleged that she was fired for becoming pregnant while unmarried. In response, the schools and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati had claimed that her use of artificial insemination violated Catholic religious tenets and was a valid reason for firing her. In its verdict, the jury specifically found that Dias was the victim of pregnancy discrimination.

The verdict is an important victory for both workers’ rights and the rights of parents and families. It affirms that the law protects workers’ freedom to make decisions about their reproductive lives without suffering condemnation and retaliation from their bosses. It also implicitly recognizes that – especially in today’s era of assisted reproduction – families come in diverse forms, all of which deserve respect and protection.

Why Men Work So Many Hours

How many employed American mothers work more than 50 hours a week? Go on, guess. I’ve been asking lots of people that question lately. Most guess around 50 percent.

The truth is nine percent.

Nine percent of working moms clock more than 50 hours a week during the key years of career advancement: ages 25 to 44. If we limit the sample to mothers with at least a college degree, the number rises only slightly, to 13.9 percent. (These statistics came from special tabulations of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey.)

Appeals Court Holds That Breastfeeding Is “Related To Pregnancy” (Or Why My Four-Year-Old Understands Basic Biology Better Than Some Judges)

By Galen Sherwin, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Women’s Rights Project

When Donnicia Venters disclosed to her manager as she was preparing to return to work after her maternity leave that she was breastfeeding and would need a place to pump breast milk, she was met with silence. And then told that her “spot ha[d] been filled.”

When the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission tried to sue on her behalf, a federal district court judge dismissed her case, on the ground that firing someone because she is breastfeeding is not sex discrimination. This is despite clear language in federal anti-discrimination law prohibiting employers from discriminating against workers based on “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” The judge’s reasoning: lactation was not a “condition related to pregnancy and childbirth” because once the plaintiff had her baby, “she was no longer pregnant and her pregnancy-related conditions ended.

Breastfeeding IS a Civil Right!

Being a new mother is not easy and getting breastfeeding off to a good start is a small – no, make that a HUGE miracle!  Add the stress of losing your job because you tried to give your baby the best start in life?  I can’t even imagine it.

Breastfeeding became a protected Civil Right in California last year when Gov. Brown signed AB 2386, which amended our Fair Employment and Housing Act, to include a women’s breastfeeding status.

However, for years women in the US have been at risk of losing their job, because of a series of Federal Cases, in which the old patriarchy selectively sided with employers who opted to fire women who were breastfeeding.  In essence, the courts felt that there was no connection between lactation and pregnancy.  (Explain that to me….please?)

That changed yesterday and THIS IS HUGE!

Why Most Women Can’t “Lean In” Without Stronger Laws

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has kicked up all sorts of controversy with her argument that career women can be their own worst enemy and should “lean in” more to their jobs and their ambitions. But the biggest, largely unspoken problem is not that she is elitist, or placing blame in the wrong place. It is that most women can’t rely on their work ethic or the good will of their boss to get ahead— they need stronger legal protections to effectively “lean in.”

It’s a vast, systemic issue. Women’s legal rights – at the moment of hiring, when they receive their paycheck, when they get pregnant, after they give birth – are consistently trampled, and many of them feel powerless to fight back. A recent WSJ/NBC poll found that an overwhelming 84 per cent of American women perceive bias in the workplace.

“We Don’t Pay You to Pee” and Other Reasons Why We Need the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

By Liz Watson and Cortelyou Kenney, National Women’s Law Center
Cross-Posted from NWLC’s blog

Amanda Roller was a call center employee in Kansas. After Amanda became pregnant she started experiencing morning sickness. Amanda’s supervisor repeatedly refused her requests to go the bathroom and instead told her that she would get Amanda a larger trash can so that she could vomit at her desk. Amanda asked again, and her supervisor again denied her request, saying, “We don’t pay you to pee.” Amanda was then demoted and eventually fired.

What to Give a Working Mother for Mother’s Day

After a long week at work, and the weekend filled with two soccer games, a dance recital and a birthday party, I’ll drive 75 minutes to visit my mother this Mother’s Day. There’s no time for breakfast in bed, a manicure/pedicure with friends or dinner and a movie. That’s okay; that’s not what this working mother wanted for Mother’s Day anyway. You know what I do want for all working mothers? I want:

Paid Sick Leave. Almost half (48 percent) of private-sector workers do not have paid sick days. As a working mother, it’s common sense that occasionally you’ll need time to care for yourself or your child when they are too sick to go to school or daycare. It’s also likely you’ll need time to care for an elderly parent. I do. In fact, according to a recent Forbes article, more than 60 million families are caring for an aging or disabled family member. And do you know who does 80-90 percent of that caregiving? Women.

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