Josh Levs filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission when they denied his request for paternity leave. More fathers should follow suit.
Time Warner Cable is to be commended for having a family-friendly workplace policy of providing up to ten weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn child. There are too many companies that don't even offer paid maternity leave, let alone paternity leave. However, for some reason, this policy applies to everyone but biological fathers. Why adoptive fathers of newborns can utilize this policy but not biological fathers is a question that has yet to be answered by Time Warner.
When Josh Levs asked for ten paid weeks off so he could stay home with his wife and their newborn daughter, his request was denied (11 days after the baby's birth), leaving him with limited options.
Under Time Warner rules, I have only two choices: stay out for 10 weeks without pay, or return to work and hire someone to come to our home each day. Neither is financially tenable, and the fact that only biological dads face this choice at this point in a newborn’s life is ludicrous.
Levs followed all of the proper internal procedures when making his request, and he initially thought that the failure to apply the policy to biological fathers was simply an oversight, because it just doesn't make any sense.
To understand how misguided this policy is, think of the following scenarios.
Here’s one an attorney gave me: If I were a woman, but other elements of my situation were the same — I was still with the same woman (so that would be a same-sex relationship), and she gave birth to our child, legally I would have to adopt in order to be co-parent. I would then have the option of 10 weeks off, paid.
Or how about this: If I gave my child up for adoption, and some other guy at Time Warner adopted her, he would get 10 weeks off, paid, to take care of her. I, however, her biological father, can’t.
When Time Warner finally informed Levs that they were "unable" to grant his request, without any rational explanation for the gross disparity in treatment, "this issue stopped being a possible oversight that the company could have resolved quietly. it became an active, deliberate decision to discriminate."
Fathers should take note of this complaint and feel emboldened to exercise their rights as fathers and employees. Paternal involvement in family life has been steadily increasing and fathers are now more than ever involved in the everyday raising of their children. This is a good thing.
Employers should institute policies that help support mothers and fathers. Fathers who believe they are being denied the benefits that are afforded to others, should do exactly what Levs is doing and ask (or fight) for them. Call out employers who claim to be "family friendly" but do not provide comparable leave for mothers and fathers. Call out employers who publicly spout about "family values," but whose internal policies reflect the exact opposite.
Fathers matter. The more we normalize the reality of paternal involvement and familial responsibilities in the workplace, the closer we will get to equality in other important areas of life.