In Trump’s ‘Maternity Leave’ Plan, The Devil — and the Stereotypes — Are In the Details

In Donald Trump’s speech to Congress this week, he surprised many by mentioning the need to “ensure new parents that they have paid family leave.” The president is correct about one thing: Congressional action on paid family leave is long overdue.

But as with all policy proposals, the devil is in the details. If Trump’s proposal continues to reflect what he floated during the presidential campaign — reportedly prompted by his daughter, Ivanka —then it is not in fact for family leave. Rather it’s for maternity leave, for married birth mothers only, making this proposal as inadequate as it is discriminatory.

Shockingly, there is currently no federal requirement that employers offer paid parental leave — the U.S. is alone among developed nations in this respect. Existing federal law under the Family and Medical Leave Act provides limited benefits — only 12 weeks of unpaid time off, which the majority of workers can’t afford to take — and is only available to those who work for large employers or who have worked at their job for long enough to qualify, leaving approximately 40 percent of workers ineligible. Although there has recently been some progress at the state and local level — California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and San Francisco have enacted paid family leave laws — a benefit this critical for working families should not be left to states and cities any more than it should be left to the goodwill of individual employers.

And few employers do so voluntarily. According to a recent report by PL+US, a paid leave advocacy organization, 13 percent of private sector employees overall, and only 6 percent of low-wage workers, have access to any paid family leave through their employer. Too many new parents are thus faced with the impossible choice between sacrificing much needed income or returning to work immediately without time to recover from childbirth or bond with their new baby. One study even showed that nearly one in four workers returned to work within two weeks of having a child. The impact of the lack of paid leave on families’ financial and emotional wellbeing is thus difficult to overstate.

But the Trump proposal in its current form won’t fix these problems because it has several fundamental flaws.

First, the policy is inadequate: It would only provide for six weeks’ leave at partial pay, making it out of reach for low-income women and failing to account for medical complications from birth or recovery. It also fails to address serious health conditions for one’s self or for loved ones other than newborns, such as aging parents, young children, or spouses and partners — caregiving work that also falls disproportionately on women.

Second, it perpetuates sex stereotypes. While workers who have given birth need sufficient time to physically recover, limiting paid leave to mothers perpetuates the notion that only women can or should care for children. This is hardly surprising coming from a billionaire who bragged about never changing a diaper, described his marital division of labor as “I’ll supply the funds and she’ll take care of the kids,” and characterized men who participate equally in parenting as “acting like the wife.”

Such stereotypes are unacceptable, and the ACLU has long fought to combat them, such as in our case on behalf of a male state trooper denied access to FMLA leave to care for his newborn child. They lead to reluctance to hire or promote women, contributing to the gender wage gap, and deprive fathers of critical bonding and parenting opportunities. Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has warned that unequal leave policies between women and men may be discriminatory. Federal leave policy should eliminate, not perpetuate, gender inequality.

Third, the restriction of benefits to married birth mothers ignores the fact that unmarried mothers are more likely to be heads of household, to have lower household income, and to struggle with poverty. And it ignores everyone else — dads, non-birth moms in same-sex partnerships, two-dad families, and adoptive parents — all of whom are equally in need of adequate time to care for and bond with the newest members of their families. These extreme and irrational limitations render the proposal fundamentally out of touch with the needs of today’s working families.

Luckily, there is a clear alternative: the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, introduced last month by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The FAMILY Act would provide workers with 12 weeks of partially paid leave to care for a new baby or sick family member or for their own serious health condition. The leave would be available to employees at businesses of all sizes and would be available to spouses and domestic partners, same-sex couples, and adoptive parents.

It’s past time for us to reckon with the unsustainable cost of failing to provide paid family leave on families’ economic security, children’s health outcomes, and national productivity. But we can’t settle for a policy that provides the bare minimum or that reflects some out-of-touch and distorted view of what families should look like. It is perhaps too much to hope that members of Congress could work together to enact paid leave, much less that they could ensure leave that is sufficient, comprehensive, and accessible to all types of parents and families, as the FAMILY Act does. But it shouldn’t be.

If you would like to get involved in state or local advocacy for paid family leave, let us know. If your employer provides unequal amounts of leave for different types of parents, we want to hear from you—please fill out our survey.

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Dr. Marcie Zinn

Trump has a severe form of a very severe personality disorder. He is not capable of running a country and many of us can tell that without a diagnosis. People who are just anxious or a little depressed, as many of us are, recognize extreme feelings as unrealistic and know that they may be a 'little off,' for example. They may say things like, "I feel so angry right now, and I do not understand why."

Someone with this severe disorder of the self would say others are making him feel upset, and that his anger is all the fault of the other. Unfortunately repeated experiences with others does nothing to help this individual. What these individuals do is re-enact, over and over, without awareness, early interactions they had with caregivers, other children, etc. They cannot see themselves or others realistically. This situation produces large amounts of extreme anger and rage, which is also taken out on others, i.e., certain targeted groups who cannot easily help themselves.

Stated differently, he will never stop until he is stopped. He will only become worse.

A Real DR

And how is this related to the article?

Anonymous

I so agree!

Anonymous

Yes I agree! I believe he's mental!

Anonymous

And no one has ever said " I'm angry and I don't know why." I know I've said that before and i am almost positive that the other running candidate for president has said the same before. Mental or not, he was voted for. And the issue at hand is paid leave time for newborn care and bonding which is absolutely vital to all human life, American or not. This is a human issue. #humanissue

Anonymous

My high school aged children frequently say they feel strongly and don't know why. And Pres. Trump is part of the issue. His maternity leave policy proposal is the product of a mind that sees the world through a very distorted lens. Dr. Zinn's comments are salient because they help explain where Trump's ideas come from.

Jane R

Crazier than a fruit bat!

ElizaD

While I understand what you are saying and why you are saying it, I am concerned that a physician would publically diagnose anyone without ever examining them. I thought that went against your Hippocratic oath.

So are you not really a Dr., or are you an irresponsible one?

ElizaD

Or are you not an MD, but a PhD in something other than Psychiatry or Psychology in which case you are just like everyone else calling him crazy? (That I can't, or won't disagree with!)

Kara

Regarding Erica's comment that someone has to be examined before they are diagnosed, I direct you to an article in the Columbia Journal Review. A paragraph:
"As cavalier as this may sound, mental illness does not need to be professionally diagnosed. We don’t need to be told by a doctor that the guy who is coughing and sneezing at the other end of the train car is probably sick, though we don’t know if it is a cold, the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, or an allergy. All we know is that the safe thing to do is to stay away from him. When someone is compulsively lying, continuously contradicting himself, imploring the approval of people even as he is attacking them, exalting people one day and abusing and vilifying them the next, then the question of his mental state is moot. The safe thing to do is not just to stay away from him, but to keep him away from situations where he can do harm."
Here's the article: http://www.cjr.org/analysis/trump-mental-health.php

And then also an interview with Dr. Lance Dodis about the article. In it he says, "The question that has been confusing about him is this diagnostic issue. It actually has a perhaps surprisingly easy solution. The traits that are important, lying, cheating, hurting people without any remorse, these are the traits that go into any diagnosis. And it's the traits that are important. The final label, the diagnostic label, changes all the time… The labels just don't matter. People argue over it ruthlessly. But we know, as a fact, that he has these traits which indicate an important personality disability, and those are the things that make him dangerous. So without haggling over the diagnosis, there's no question about his having a mental instability and that being a danger."

The interview also discusses the duty to warn: "Mental health professionals have the duty to warn people when other people's conditions could do them harm. And no one in the world could do more harm to more people faster than the President of the United States, who could plunge the world into nuclear war in minutes."
You can watch that interview here: http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/trump-s-mental-health-the-eleph...

So, not only is Dr. Zinn not violating any oaths by her comments, she is doing her duty as a doctor to warn the public. I hope that she and others like her continue to speak out. A specific diagnosis could not be given without an examination, sure. But seeing that he has a significant mental illness that is putting others at danger can be observed clearly. The label is irrelevant.

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