Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Family Leave

Sunday's New York Times Magazine includes a compelling article by Eyal Press on workers' ability to care for their families. It tells the story of Karen Deonarain whose employer fired her after she endured a difficult pregnancy and premature delivery. Deonarain was fired despite having been assured by her supervisor that "the company understood she would need time off after the pregnancy." After recovering from her initial shock, Deonarain contacted the D.C. Employment Justice Center which helped her find an attorney. "Her lawsuit, which charges that she was fired for complications related to her pregnancy, amounting to a form of sex discrimination, is in the discovery phase." In the past, such lawsuits were rare, but since the mid 1990s, "the number of workers who have sued their employers for supposed mistreatment on account of family responsibilities...has increased by more than 300 percent." And many of them have been successful. Press links the growing number of cases to the growing number of women in the workplace and to the greater difficulty many Americans have in "balancing the demands of work and family." Professor Joan Williams of the University of California's Hastings College of the Law discusses this issue cogently in her 2000 book, Unbending Gender. In Professor Williams's view, these lawsuits are fundamentally about family values, not gender discrimination. For this reason, they unite people on both sides of the political divide. The Times article is definitely worth a read, especially for those of us who have wrestled, and continue to wrestle, with balancing our commitments to our employers and our commitments to our families.


Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
We double posted this excellent article! I'll take mine down. Sorry.


Marie S. Newman said...

Great minds think alike! Thanks.