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How My Employer Put the “FML” in FMLA (the-toast.net)
404 points by vkb on Oct 30, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 327 comments

At this point, the male students would nod and go on about their days, and the female grad students would stick around in an increasingly panicked state to ask about that whole saving annual and sick leave thing, since their contracts don’t include leave.

I was 100% like the male students until fairly recently when my girlfriend and I started having serious conversations about having children. The conversation was something like this. her: "What does your employer offer for maternity leave?" me: "lol idk." And then I got a pretty stern look. In the US the only legal guarantee you get is that you can leave for 12 weeks unpaid and you'll probably still have a job when you get back. There is zero guaranteed paid leave. It's completely shameful and it's a stone age policy compared to the rest of the Western world [1]. It's also something I think the typical HN reader hasn't spent much time thinking about so I'm glad to see this on the front page.


"Zero paid leave" is not quite true, it's left to the individual States to decide that. CA, DC, NJ, HI, NY and PR each have paid family leave. If your state isn't in that list, complain to your state government.

It's still complicated though. I took paternity leave last year in CA and it was like this: there's a 7-day waiting period, so the first week was straight PTO. Then PFL pays 55% of salary up to I think $1k/week, so you make up the difference with partial PTO. That can go on for up to 6 weeks; if memory serves I took 4 weeks total off.

All in all not terrible. I realize I'm fortunate to live in CA where there is a PFL policy, and to work for a company that's with-it enough to process these claims quickly and competently. I truly feel for others like the woman in the article.

One common view is that 4-6 weeks is, in fact, terrible.

Of course it's all trade-offs, but the US is a long ways from most similar countries in this respect, and I can see people getting frustrated with it. In many places there are reasonable options to manage a combined year of parental leave, for example.

I dunno about a long way off... what I'm seeing are medium-long amounts of time and a paltry % of your pay, and often only for mothers.

Canada for example offers 50 weeks (wow!) of 55% pay (uh oh) with a 2 week waiting period (ooo..) up to a max of $501/week (eek). Costa Rica gives women 4 months at 100% (yay!) but only 3 days for fathers (boo). Japan is 14 weeks 60%, nothing for fathers. Examples are many at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave

It's certainly one area nobody's really solved since women joined the workforce.

Thats why I like Lithuania, you can take this:

1 year 100% or 2 years: 52 weeks 70% and 52 weeks 40% (either mother or father can take it or take the leave in shifts)

And you could even do Like this:

1 Year Mother 100 %, next Year Father 100 % - awesome, right?

Sure, but you are comparing federally mandated minimums. Elsewhere in this thread there is a lot of hay being made about how your company may offer more.... The same is true here. For example, I know people whose 50 weeks in Canada has been topped up to 80%.

It's not just about pay either, but about what security (if any) someone has after maternity or paternity leave. In practice, I think you'll fund the in the U.S. This is much harder to do, not just compared to Canada, but to most of Europe.

> Sure, but you are comparing federally mandated minimums.

Which is exactly what you were talking about, so I don't see a problem. And like I said, some states go above and beyond.

> It's not just about pay either, but about what security (if any) someone has after maternity or paternity leave [...] in the U.S. this is much harder to do

Not at all, that's precisely what the federal FMLA is for. 12 weeks of job-protected leave. No payment unless covered by something else (PTO, company policy, state law, etc), but it is 3 months of job-protected leave.

Actually, when I said "there are reasonable options" I wasn't referring to federal minimums at all, but I should have made that more clear.

I know what FMLA is for, I'm saying that compared to many places, that is not much protection. You picked a couple of places out of that wikipedia page, but on the short end. What about Sweden's 13 months at 75% or so, or Englands year?

Anyway, I'm not saying one approach is wrong, as it is all trade-offs. I'm just saying that this is made much more difficult in the US than in a lot of comparable countries, and I think that is pretty uncontroversial.

I agree that it's trade-offs. UK's maternity leave - considered the gold standard by many - does indeed allow 52 weeks, but only the first 6 weeks are paid at 90%, then from week 7-39, you get a paltry £136.78/week. Weeks 40-52 are unpaid (some employers offer "enhanced benefits" that override these numbers, but now we're back to relying on employers' generosity).

Indeed a tough problem.

Edit: I can't read

It's 6 weeks paid, 10.5 months mostly unpaid

Yeah, the Costa Rica case was a real bummer for me.

Just had my first child and I only managed to get 5 days from the company, they were nice enough to throw in 2 additional days to my 3 days. To at least make it a week.

There's a bit of a caveat to the women's 4 months, those 4 months start by law 1 month before the child is scheduled to be born and continue for 3 months. We would have preferred more time after the birth and less time before.

Wow, that's really interesting! I am always amazed at the geographic diversity in tech.

Costa Rica is pretty heavily vested in tech, actually.

"... In 2006 Intel's microprocessor facility alone was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of the country's GDP.[20][21]..."

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Costa_Rica

To add, you get more time off for disability if you're a birth mother in California.


So from 4 weeks before birth to 6 weeks after, you can also get 55% of salary, up to $1,075/week. Then you can take on the additional 6 weeks of paid family leave.

Amusing to see this on the same day that Tim Cook shocks no one by coming out publicly but making headline news everywhere.

For all of the tremendous focus on so-called family values in the United States, it seems that what is usually meant has something to do with sex. If only all of that energy could be focused on serious policy problems like this one.

>It's completely shameful and it's a stone age policy compared to the rest of the Western world [1]

not that i agree with such policy. Yet logically i can see the other side of that - why encourage people to spend their time and effort during the most productive years of their life on basically their personal sideprojects - children - instead of contributing to the economy when US can "import" through immigration any kind of people they want - from toddlers to ready-made programmers to almost ready-made doctors - thus saving a lot of societal resources which otherwise would need to be spend to bring up and educate such a person (add the risk that not every child becomes a highly productive member of society and some even become a burden like go to prison). Basically the same logic why iPhone is built in and imported from China :)

Hope you are not trolling, because your assertions about the 'other side' are egregiously wrong and pseudo-logical. 1) Toddler's do contribute to economy (fertility rate, up to a point is positively correlated with economic growth). Ageing populations are bad for the economy [1], 2) Well-being and good policies are correlated and causally linked to better productivity [2].

[1] e.g. http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2014/09/02/baby-boom-or-e... [2] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/opinion/sunday/do-happier-...

OP's suggestion actually does make economic sense, if and only if you import enough people. I don't think any country currently import enough resourceful people to make up for the high quality they themselves can produce.

But I definitely think you could make it work. Hypothetically, not humanely.

Not humanely???

I don't think it's humanely to actively discourage people from having children.

Why? It was your choice to have a child why should your employer pay for it, and why should all your fellow employees that did not have children have to work harder to cover for you while you are on paid leave?

I think it is selfish for new parents to demand all this time off, you were hired to do a job, do it, if you can not or unwilling to because you have made a choice to make a major change in your life then i am sure someone else will be happy to get paid do to your job.

You'd hope it was because you considered your country (and the world as a whole) a community where we all help each other out, and treat each other how we'd like to be treated. The implication of "user pays" is that the rich live life basically as they always have (because costs of life events don't scale with your wage), and the poor are utterly fucked.

You may believe it's selfish for new parents to demand time off. I believe it is selfish for people who are more fortunate than others to not contribute more tax and help lift those below them when they're in need.

I believe both are selfish, I also do not believe it is any place for government to be involved.

If an employer wants to have 1 day, or 365 days off that is up to them, that is part of your compensation package you should evaluate when you agree to take a job.

Just like I believe it is a responsibility of those with money to help those with out. That does not translate in to supporting the use of government violence to forcing people to give up money, nor does that mean I support the creating of terribly inefficient government programs to manage, regulate, or dispense said benefits or money

As to the topic at hand, if a private business owner desires to offer their employee time off for child bearing more power to them, it is not the business of government however to force that on said business owner.

I imagine we will never agree on this, as it sounds like our opinions could not differ more.

To sum up with an example though: a few elections ago I voted for the political party who had stated that they would raise my taxes (in particular, the bracket I get paid in). I did so because I consider myself very fortunate to work in a clean ventilated office, and sit at a desk solving programming problems. I don't think it's because I'm hard working, or diligent, or anything like that. At least, no more so than the dude outside logging bags of concrete around

I think it's because I was lucky enough to be brought up in a culture where I "fell" into this situation (pressured to do well in high school, brought up around computers with a passionate father, taught to program when I was 10, going to uni was a no-brainer and couldn't be any other way, etc). Other people aren't so lucky, and it would be height of hubris for me to think any other way.

(edit: quick note: I live in NZ, not the US. My opinions aren't particular controversial here)

Allow me to sum up with a quote...

"It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint."

-- Penn Jillette

The problem with this argument is that if we only relied on compassion, people who fit well into community norms would be taken care of, and those people who didn't would get lesser or no services.

I think most people have no idea how much it costs to do half the things the government does, and so even if everyone was compassionate, they'd give far less money than is actually needed, even for the socially normal people.

I think most people have no idea how much waste there is in things government purports to do.

Accomplishing the same goals with out government overhead would cost a fraction in real dollars than with the nightmare that is government bureaucracy

I think your first statement is 100% true. Most people have no idea how much waste there is.

But some people still try to say it's huge, without any proof other than what they've heard on talk radio.

Yes because people that do not fit into social norms are helped by government all the time....

If you believe that I have some nice beach property I think you would be interested in.

Government through out history has been the engine of discrimination. The only legal way to abuse and harm a social group you do not like is by regulatory capture. Government for hundreds of years has been used to socially engineer society they way those in power desire it to be. From Marriage laws, to who qualifies for welfare.

It is the epitome of ignorance to state that government is the best method to help those that "do not fit well into community norms"

You don't think it's mostly objective whether people are being helped? I don't care about the joy of helping nearly as much as actual help. Fuck moral credit. Actually help people. Force everyone to give instead of relying on charity from the few.

Yes, it is bullying. That's the only complaint in that quote that makes any sense.

Then taken from an objective view government has harmed far far far far far far far more people that it has ever helped

It appears that a lot of people think it is the business of government to force that on business owners. I think you'd do better if you could justify your position instead of just flatly declaring it as if it were an objectively verifiable fact.

It is a combination of how people look at employment, and how people look at government

Many(most) people have this entitlement mentality where by government, society, employers "owe them".

Employment is simply you selling your labor to the highest bidder. Company X needs Y labor done for them, you have the ability to perform that labor so you agree to a wage where by said labor gets done.

Nothing more. It is not a "family" you are not entitled to a job, or benefits of any type.

As for government, the only function government has is to prevent aggressive actions against me and my property and to provide a peaceful method of conflict resolution (aka courts)

It is not to inject itself in to the voluntary agreements of me and my employer, or anyone else.

Did you even read my comment? You just declared a bunch more stuff with no justification, as if you were reciting incontrovertible facts.

The job of the government is to help us make our world a better place. If the job of government was just to resolve conflict, we'd have no roads, no bridges, no public education, we'd all be working 100 hour weeks for a pittance, and the world would be a really really awful place that none of us would like to live in. To think otherwise is just foolishness.

Ahh the classic "Who will build the roads" Fallacy

To think government was the reason for any of things you site it ignorant is best.

You really need to study history more.

History? Like the New Deal? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Deal

New Deal simply exacerbated the Great Depression instead of helping to fix it.

Its like you give a patient poison and then when he gets more sick you say "You see how much you really needed my medicine".

Lets say we do wanna study the effect of Government on Great Depression, what would be the falsifiability criteria for that?

The word is "society". I, for one, like living in one.

Also as a single 38 year old man with no desire to have kids, I'm glad other people do. I'm happy for my (Australian) tax dollars to support them.

Well then spend your own money on the "society", why are you so glad that you can force other people to spend money on your "Society". If I really had to do immoral things in order to do some measure I really wanted, like steal in order to feed myself, at least I wouldn't be super proud and tearing over it.

As a single 36 year old man with no desire to have kids,I could care less if other people have kids and feel it is their responsibility not mine to pay for their life choice of having children

I knew America has awful employment law, but wow.

> In the US the only legal guarantee you get is that you can leave for 12 weeks unpaid and you'll probably still have a job when you get back.

(1) Most companies provide better benefits than what is legally required (2) The US has a robust and very expensive welfare system (3) Unlike something like cancer pregnancy is not an accident. If you can't afford to pay for children, don't have them.

FWIW most tech companies provide very generous benefits, though I'm pretty sure it's only possible because a lot of employees never take advantage of them. (Most programmers aren't having a dozen kids)

> Most companies provide better benefits than what is legally required

Cool, let's just bank on the generosity of companies.

> Unlike something like cancer pregnancy is not an accident. If you can't afford to pay for children, don't have them.

Did you even read the article? These people can obviously afford to have children. They can't afford to become unemployed because they had children. Short of being independently wealthy or raiding your personal savings, no one can afford to become unemployed for an extended period of time because they're raising a child.

Let's not even get into the fact that this is obviously disproportionately affecting women. I don't need to take sick leave because my wife gave birth - I don't have anything to physically recover from.

> Cool, let's just bank on the generosity of companies.

Because banking on the generosity of the government works so well for people. I'm suggesting precisely the opposite of this. Rather than everyone seeing themselves as victims maybe they should take some responsibility for their life choices.

> Short of being independently wealthy or raiding your personal savings, no one can afford to become unemployed for an extended period of time because they're raising a child.

Not true. Many women choose not to work to raise children.

> Let's not even get into the fact that this is obviously disproportionately affecting women.

Sure, where "this" means "reality". It's not a corporation's fault that women give birth and men don't.

Someone has to pay for all this stuff.

> Cool, let's just bank on the generosity of companies.

Or, how about you think about this when finding a job, and weigh the pros and cons of various employers' benefits and policies. We don't always need top-down guidance from bureaucrats in D.C. to solve societal problems.

> Or, how about you think about this when finding a job, and weigh the pros and cons of various employers' benefits and policies

Sure, if you are in high demand you can probably do this. If you work an entry level job you won't have much leverage and since you probably can't afford to take extended time off, you may find taking care of children somewhere near impossible.

> We don't always need top-down guidance from bureaucrats in D.C. to solve societal problems.

I'm glad you qualified it with always. But a look at U.S. history shows a lot of societal problems were helped by those bureaucrats in DC and elsewhere (school segregation, voting rights, equal access to public transport, public accommodations [restaurants can't deny your service based on your race], equal opportunity employment, etc).

YOu do understand that all of the problems you say "bureaucrats in DC" solved, were infact created by bureaucrats in DC and bureaucrats in local government.

Almost the entire Civil Rights act was about ending GOVERNMENT entrenched racism and repealing laws that forced business owners to discriminate.

But hey do not let facts get in the way of irrational worship of government like it was a deity

> (3) Unlike something like cancer pregnancy is not an accident. If you can't afford to pay for children, don't have them.

It's not an accident, it's merely one of the foundations of any healthy society. I'm willing to part with a bit of our collective wealth to help raise them.

ahh good old communism...

Everything is owned by the collective and we have no personal wealth....

North Korea Welcomes you

Yes. If even a single dollar is taxed, that means personal property ceases to exist. Thank you for explaining it to us.

The statement "i'm will to part with a little of our collective wealth" implies the belief that you have the ethical right to lay claim to any amount any persons wealth because it is all part of the "collective".

If you would have said "I'm willing to part with a little of my wealth" that would have conveyed a believe in personal property.

Poor people deserve to have kids, too.

Who's going to pay for their kids?

Most of the time, kids pay for themselves out of their future earnings and consumer behaviors. We have a stable enough civilization that we should be able to invest something now for a potential return in 18-25 years.

The children will be born whether you want them to exist or not, and regardless of whether the parents are fit to raise them. Once the kid exists, what do you intend to do with it? Ignore it and hope for the best? Or maybe coax it into some form of societal contract, wherein we all help it reach its maximum potential now, and in return, it constructively participates in the civilized economy later?

The question is really whether you believe that the inability to easily pay the costs of child-rearing, whatever they may be, dissuades people from having more children.

And if, for some reason, one generation decides to grant itself a heap of late-life benefits that will have to be paid for by future productive workers, like retirement funds, pensions, and medical care, it would really be shooting itself in the foot to slash its support for young parents and immigration. The existence of "money" notwithstanding, current consumption always has to be paid for with current production and past stockpiles. Unless there's a warehouse somewhere out there filled with stored-up services for older people, people looking to consume such services had better start thinking about who might be providing them in the future.

Everyone. It's called a community. Same people who pay for seniors and unemployment and public education and roads and bridges and national defense. Do we not live in a world where everyone deserves to be able to afford kids?

Everyone else of course

Society owes them


> (1) Most companies provide better benefits than what is legally required

Gosh, I'm sure that's comforting to the OP.

OP: "My car's samouflange broke at 60mph and now I'm quadriplegic." cdoxsey: "Well, most samouflange-failure incidents only result in minor bruising, so everything is fine!"

I find the whole notion of "sick days" and accruing them bizarre.

What happens if you're sick but don't have enough sick days saved? Are you fired? Stop getting payed?

For comparison, this is how sick leave works in the uk: https://www.gov.uk/taking-sick-leave

And I don't want to even get in to how fucked up it is to have to save up years of vacation days to take some time off when you have a baby

> I find the whole notion of "sick days" and accruing them bizarre.

Agreed. Companies here in the US are pretty stingy with them, too, causing people to come to work sick where they get everyone else sick too.

> What happens if you're sick but don't have enough sick days saved? Are you fired? Stop getting payed?

You stop getting paid and can be fired if the company wishes.

Some companies are subject to FMLA, which protects your job for 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave. Its requirements rule out small businesses and new employees, though:

> In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have been at the business at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

I really think that a minimum number of sick days should be mandatory as a public health measure.

The amount of lost productivity caused by sick people infecting their coworkers per year has to be immense.

If you're in Massachusetts, please vote Yes on Question Four next week.

Question Four mandates that employees who work for employers having eleven or more employees would earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, while employees working for smaller employers would earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.

Without it, there are people making your food who are working while sick.

Having worked in restaurants, I wonder whether this would actually make more than a marginal impact on the number of food workers coming in sick. If I'm a cook and I am told I get 40 hours per year (so 3-6 shifts, depending on your hours) to get paid to stay home 'sick', there's a pretty good chance I'm going to come in anyway with a cold, so that I can take off for more important reasons, like family occasions or a court date. Since I don't get paid vacation days for these things, I'm going to call my boss, cough a few times, and use a paid sick day.

Note: I'm not against the idea, just think it's too little to meet it's stated purpose.

For large companies the minimum number of sick days should be the number of days for which a doctor verifies you are unfit to work through illness. Such companies who also have morals will make allowances for a certain number of uncertified days of illness (you don't get a doctor's note for flu, going in to work when you're too weak to stand up and can barely concentrate long enough to take meds; or going to work and spending the whole day on the toilet, again, same). They should also, as a minimum show of humanity, allow leave for funerals of family and close friends.

The USA looks less and less like a democracy _for_ the people the more I learn about it.

> The USA looks less and less like a democracy _for_ the people the more I learn about it.

It's what people get when they come up with their own fancy interpretation of the meaning of the word "freedom".

Enjoy a lot of individualism? Well, better be prepared to live with the consequences.

N.B.: I grew up under communist dictatorship, so I know the other extreme too. Both are pernicious.

Like Bill Hicks used to say, "You think you're free? OK. Try doing anything without money, then you'll see how free you are."

Also, the vast majority of americans don't actually enjoy any individuality; what they actually love is running their mouths right up to the second they need major medical treatment. Then the whining starts.

A couple years ago I read an amazing interview that I wish I'd kept. During the great recession there was some parent out of work receiving TANF (food stamps) from the government so that he and his wife and kids could eat. And just so it's clear, I can't think of a better use of my tax dollars than making sure all people, particularly kids, have enough to eat. Yet he was busy complaining about how they (and no prize for guessing who they is; some lazy black eating t-bone steaks) was abusing food stamps while he was getting what he deserved. All the while he was eating my tax dollars. It was one of the few times I'd ever sympathized with Republican's needs to embarrass those getting help from the government. I wanted a flashing red sign to go off when this guy bought groceries with food stamps so maybe he'd stop shitting on other people doing the same. Though perhaps some people in life just need someone below them so they can tell themselves that no matter what, they're better than X.

Reminds me of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTwpBLzxe4U

"I've been on food stamps and welfare. Anybody help me out? No."

USA was never a democracy. It is a Constitutional Representative Republic. Further democracies are the very very worst form of governance. Mob Rule is not something you should desire to live under.

My experience in the real world is that people don't want to burn their valuable PTO, and continue to come to work when they have a minor illness. (I correct my employees if they do this)

But this being the case, having the possibility of extra protection for protracted illnesses isn't going to do a whit for protecting us from coworkers passing around a cold or minor flu.

> My experience in the real world is that people don't want to burn their valuable PTO, and continue to come to work when they have a minor illness.

Forcing this tradeoff is the entire reason that firms have single-pot PTO; this isn't an issue when sick leave is separate from vacation.

Make it something separate from regular PTO that doesn't carry over and can't be accrued.

Maybe something like 16 hours per quarter, that expire at the end of the quarter.

I don't love the idea of policing "legitimate" illness vs "mental health day" vs vacation.

A couple years ago a certain im-too-fucking-important-to-take-sick-time asshole biz-dev exec came to work sick as a dog and had literally 2/3 of employees out sick the next week. And thats at a tech company where we had plenty of sick time.

Now think about people who work in restaurants, fast food, or on an ambulance as emts. Most of them have zero paid sick leave. Hell, when we were discussing Jimmy Johns -- a shitty sub shop -- requiring NDAs, it came out that in order for an employee there to take (unpaid!) sick time, he or she must find a replacement first.

Think about that the next time you buy a sandwich: the person making it will come to work, sick or not. Yummy!

It is.

But thanks to the accounting foresight of the employers, those costs are mostly borne by the employees. So the employers have all the leverage, and zero incentive to use it for anyone else's benefit.

> I really think that a minimum number of sick days should be mandatory as a public health measure.

In some states it is, though the minimum number, when there is one, tends to be very low.

Another thing that makes it even worse is having health insurance that is tied to your employment. So if you get cancer and can't manage to keep your time off to less than 12 weeks plus your accrued sick days then you can be fired and lose not only your income, but your health insurance as well. It is an unbelievably awful system.

Doesn't the ACA largely fix that? Isn't losing your job a qualifying life event that allows you to sign up outside of the normal open enrollment period?

Sorta but the people that find themselves in that situation will [usually] run out of money before the Cancer either:

A) Kills them B) Is Cured

Losing an income is kinda a big issue when you still have to pay cash for the medical insurance. ACA just fixed one issue. It didn't fix the underlying problem of:

Major Health Event == Bankruptcy Due To Loss of Income

It fixed it for many middle class folks [e.g. programmers] that can save enough to survive that kind of event. I doubt someone making $10-12/hr can save enough.

> Losing an income is kinda a big issue when you still have to pay cash for the medical insurance. ACA just fixed one issue.

ACA also expanded Medicaid eligibility [1] and includes income-based subsidies for insurance, so it addresses (to a certain extent) the having to pay cash for the insurance.

[1] Though several states successfully sued to create an opt-out for the expansion and have opted out, so in those states, the expansion doesn't exist.

Yes. But switching providers isn't that simple and doesn't cover everyone.

Idk about you but I'm paying about $0/year now and I know that coverage would cost me $XXX/month via cobra or the like. I'd have to start over with Medicaid (due to different providers taking it) combined with the fact its a minority expense less than my food or rent.

No, not by a long shot.

Insurance is still tied to employment, and even if you can sign up under the exchange after losing a job, the insurance offered under the exchange is less than desirable.

ACA was never designed to solve any problems with health insurance, in fact it was designed to exacerbate them to pave the way for Single Payer Health Care which based on the comments in this thread will be hailed as wonderful by most of the commenters here because people seem to worship government like it was their Saviour

Disability insurance is meant to kick in there.

(I'm not arguing that this actually works for everyone, just that there is a mechanism for dealing with inability to work)

Wrong. Disability will make up for some lost wages, but does not replace medical insurance.

Or "wrong" because I just didn't use enough words. COBRA was passed in 1986, so given reasonable DI, medical coverage could be maintained.

ACA makes it that much more likely that coverage could be maintained.

I don't see how it is unreasonable to expect DI to cover a planned expense like medical insurance, but I agree that I didn't spell all that out in painful detail.

Indeed. Remember this when you go to vote next month.

> What happens if you're sick but don't have enough sick days saved? Are you fired? Stop getting payed?

You stop getting paid by your regular employer. Depending on the exact nature and effect of your illness and work situation, you may be eligible for a limited duration of legally-guaranteed job-protected unpaid leave (either federal FMLA or state-level protected leaves which may be more generous), during some of which you may receive disability compensation payments which are less than your regular salary.

When you exhaust the guaranteed job-protected leave, you can be fired.

I worked at a smaller company who had two weeks paid vacation and unlimited sick days. The sick days rule was an unwritten rule, but man, did it get abused.

We had a woman who was up for a promotion and didn't get it. She went in and asked the manager why she didn't get her promotion and the manager told her, "Well, with close to 50 sick days, I'm not sure you're completely committed to to your current job."

So yeah, after so many years of getting abused, they just started a program where you get three weeks off, period. You can decide how you use it. Be it vacation or sick days, doesn't matter.

I worked for a government contractor where one accrued something like half a day of sick leave every two weeks. A lot of people thought that they were robbing themselves if they didn't burn every sick day fairly promptly. Evidently more than a few people in management did the same.

<<I find the whole notion of "sick days" and accruing them bizarre.

I believe it's mostly for accounting purposes. Most employers allow you to borrow from what hasn't accrued. It doesn't typically become an issue until you leave the company and have used more than has been accrued. At that time, they will probably not pay you for X days you are over your accrual.

When you say "Most" I assume you have worked 100% at places I haven't. HR and managers state in my cases, "If you don't have sick time you will not be paid and you may lose your position." Sick time starts after two or three months.

You should try to find more reasonable employers. Believe it not they do exist in the U.S.

It amazes me that people think this should be at the employers' discretion.

It isn't that I think it should be at the employer's discretion, it's that there are better companies to work for out there and we should all endeavor to work for them if our current employer is actively screwing us over.

Sometimes, that's simply not possible.

Those of us that don't have the option of a better employer need laws that mandate some reasonable minimum of benefits, because we won't get them any other way.

Do not confuse "it is" with "it should be."

When you work at an "At Will" state (PA) this is what you get stuck with. I never understand the Union Hate when it is clear that companies are look as anti-competitive if they don't tow the line with screwing with employees. I work for the nicest and best company I have ever worked for and it is still this way

IIRC many employers will stop paying you, then it starts to be a "short term" disability. And then you go through that process, which often includes X days unpaid as a sort of "deductible"

As you probably have read, the historical reason for a limit on 'sick days' was abuse by people who were unhappy with their employer for one reason or another, that resulted in some employers simply firing people who go sick, and that lead to labor organizing itself in the form of unions and well you got sick leave as a thing [1].

I think it is generally a crutch used instead of good management (like mass surveillance is a crutch against better police work, and nuclear weapons are crutch against better diplomacy) but so far we know the 'no sick leave' state (pre-union organizing etc) and the 'fixed sick leave' state (what we have today). The new thing, 'don't work when you are sick or recovering' regardless of limits, is a bit too unbounded for most folks. And because of that lack of forecastability it makes forecasting productivity or work production very difficult. Anything that makes it harder on management has a fairly tough road ahead of it.

[1] http://www.unionplus.org/about/labor-unions/36-reasons-thank...

The usual solution to abuse of sick pay, mentioned in the UK link above, is to require a doctor's certification for any leave > X days (7 in the UK according to the link, I know it's 3 in Switzerland).

Also a EU court decided that you get sick days even if you are on holiday: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18534028

Maybe I'm too engrained in the American way of thinking, but why in the world if you are sick on Christmas (when you're already being paid while off) should you get paid again in the terms of additional sick days? It doesn't make any sense to me.

If you can turn that paid holiday into a vacation day and take a sick day instead, that's awesome. It basically works like this:

"We planned for you to have some time to recharge by giving you holidays and vacation days. You got sick? Can't recharge while you're sick, so that's a sick day. Take a REAL vacation day later when you're well."

I can make a similar argument in the other direction. Vacation days are roughly equivalent to money, and many companies let you convert them. If you get sick on a normal day it doesn't cost you any money/vacation. Why should it cost you money/vacation to get sick on an attempted vacation day?

If anything you're already doing the company a favor to use sick days on vacation rather than any other time because everyone has already planned for you to not be there.

... because vacation is for recharging your batteries, which you don't do if you're ill?

At my startup I've decided to have a "take what you want when you want it" vacation and sick day policy. I care about results against goals, not how many hours you work or when they are. Abusing the policy in a way that affects morale (e.g., deciding only to never show up in the office and spend a year working from your batcave) would be grounds for a warning/replacement. So far it has worked well, but with only a handful on the team. Not sure how it will scale to a team of 100 or 1,000 or more.

Do you set an example for your employees so they actually take those vacation/sick days?

I tend to avoid companies with "unlimited vacation" because their employees seem to take even less vacation than they would have otherwise, don't get compensated for it as a result when they leave, and feel pressured to not take it in the first place. (See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7613526 and many other stories.) It's even worse when the bosses present a terrible work-life balance to employees.

I basically think back to one of the times I've been really sick but not contagious, or my honeymoon, to figure out if I like a vacation policy or not. Minus 1-2x/year for crunch times, assuming I'm keeping up with my workload, would I have taken a day off? Would I have felt like I couldn't take the time off? Would people have been receptive to me working from home? Now double that time off if I want to have kids in the future, am I still okay with it? Sad to say many unlimited policies don't make me feel comfortable on any front here.

Do you have a written policy? Care to share it?

What happens if an employee falls on stairs and spends the next two months in hospital and then another one in bed, at home? (happened to a colleague of mine)

Generally, if you work for a large employer, you have some form of disability insurance that picks up after a month or three. If you're out that long, the theory is that you're probably going to stay out, and your employer should be able to replace you and pass the costs onto an insurer, rather than pay salary for a non-working worker.

Sick leave here is unpaid (well not exactly, but something like a 3-day leave due to sickness can be unpaid). Which means that when I'm sick, I still go to work as usual and get everyone else sick. Because fuck them.

> And I don't want to even get in to how fucked up it is to have to save up years of vacation days to take some time off when you have a baby

This is the trade off we pay for lower taxes. (Yes certain states like NY and CA have higher tax rates, but they make up for it with more state benefits.)

When you actually count the full tax load on American employees (federal, state, and local income taxes; property taxes; sales taxes; medical insurance; disability insurance; and retirement savings), we really aren't a low-tax country. In fact, we do not actually compare favorably to most of Europe when you consider the all-in price of life.

What we really pay for is $1T+/year on our military for bombing brown people and maintaining oil supplies.

It depends on the state. States with less benefits have a lot less taxes and vice versa.

Maternity and paid sick leave policies have very little to do with tax rates.

See the CA state budget here: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2014-15/Enacted/agencies.html

The big-ticket items are the things affecting tax rates, like 11B on corrections, or almost 50B on K-12 education, and another 50B on health care services.

CA's PFL program is part of EDD, which spends $14 Billion: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2014-15/Enacted/StateAgencyBudgets...

Not all of it comes from California.

As Domenic pointed out, maternity leave is related to EDD since you can claim disability for it.


CA sick leave through FMLA, when there's a claim on disability, also draws from EDD. Your employer only starts kicking in your sick leave pay AFTER the state's coverage of your salary maxes out.

EDD spends $14 billion per year. It has a lot to do with high CA tax rates. There's even more related taxes involved if you happen to live in SF itself.

I believe what the OP was saying here was that in countries like the UK or Canada with subsidized/government-provided health care, the costs for that health care is covered by higher taxes/VAT.

> This is the trade off we pay for lower taxes.

Why would mandating that companies provide meaningful maternity or paternity leave require higher taxes? This topic doesn't have much to do with fiscal policy.

If a company is required to provide paid leave, then that means they are required to pay a person money and aren't getting anything in return for that money. In other words, you're paying a person not to work. It essentially acts the same way as a tax.

This already happens all the time for salaried employees, they often receive vacation time that doesn't reduce their yearly salary and this works perfectly fine for those roles. This isn't a tax scenario, this is more of a compensation adjustment for workers.

Vacation is still an option for employers, not a requirement. If the government required vacation time and a company did not previously offer vacation time, it's net-effect would still be an additional tax.

I'm not making a moral argument here -- actually find it rather immoral for a company not to offer adequate time off. I'm just saying the net-effect of a government forcing a company to pay more money than it normally would is a tax.

Then that's a horrible, shitty fucking trade.

Well spoken, thank you.

Pretty much every country in the world, both 'first-world' and poor countries, has it better than USA in this regard.

Let this serve as a warning for young (age-with-a-potential-to-have-a-family) people who might be tempted to relocate to California - you have to ask for a significant premium in salary, since even in good companies (the OP lists multiple items where her job is considered 'above average') you're simply not getting as good conditions as the absolute minimum mandated elsewhere even for the cheapest entry level jobs.

Locally, a shelf-stacker in the most cost-cutting-oriented local supermarket gets far better maternity leave conditions than those described here.

Learned this the hard way. My rough math is this for SF:

1.5xCurrent Salary -- Because everything is expensive here

+ $10k / marginal tax rate -- for relocation and flights home

+ 500/month forEach dependent spouse -- Medical Dental Vision

+ 250/month for each child dependent -- Medical Dental Vision

+ X -- to replace spouses's Salary because they cant work

+ Y / marginal tax rate -- spending money to keep spouse sane because they cant work and cant stay home all day doing nothing

Edits: small clarifications, gross Y up by tax rate

After spending a year in TLV your math makes a lot of sense for in my experience as well.

Don't underestimate X and Y, people...

That is a nice breakdown. Thanks for posting it.

Spot on, you couldn't have put it better. Especially X and Y for H4 dependant spouses.

Is insurance much more expensive in California?

I am self employed and buy my own insurance in CA and it is about $1000/month for two adults and one child for a silver plan through covered CA. This is for medical only, so not too far off the estimate.

Compared to countries with free health care, yes.



US provides zero weeks paid maternity leave. Pakistan provides 12. Venezuela manages 18. Canada does 50.

Per Wikipedia, the US joins Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Liberia as the only countries to not provide paid parental leave of any kind.

Important to note that these are government leave programs. A big problem in the USA is that it is expected that your employer handle this stuff.

Here in Canada, the employment insurance system - a payroll-tax-funded program that handles short-term unemployment benefits - also handles parental leave. They offer 4 months for birth mothers and a an additional 8 months for any parent. The money is tiny - something like half your salary capped to a poverty-level wage, but it's better than nothing and good employers will subsidize it somewhat.

My wife and I split the leave with our 3rd kid. 5 months for her, 7 for me. It's easily some of the happiest days of my life.

There is no reason that private companies should be expected to shoulder this burden. It's practically punishing them for hiring women who want a family. This is the exact kind of case that government exists for.

I would correct what you said.

That policy punishes the company of hiring any fertile woman.

My dad used to hire for a large engineering department. One of the things he had to keep in mind is that if a woman is hired, they can leave pretty much at any time due to FMLA, and hiring someone else is not feasible (due to law). The simple result is if he were given a choice between a man and woman of equal capacity, he would pick the man every time. Women have too much legal baggage.

My answer is that you extend the same rights to the man, and that calculus would equalize itself... but that is wishful thinking here in the US.

Even when you extend the rights to the man, there's still the traditional cultural expectations will end up with the leave on the mother. I mean, I'm a liberal stereotype and we didn't split the parental leave until our third kid - we went the traditional way for the first 2. So even in the optimal "extend rights to both" we still have the problem that the female employee took leave and the male one didn't.

We can remove the financial burden from the company by shifting it to the Employee Insurance system, but I don't know how to remove the HR problem of "you have an employee who has gone for a year of unpaid leave and you must give them back their job when they finish their leave". There's no easy answer for that one.

But, shouldn't that choice be within the family, rather than government applying uneven pressure for the female to "mother"?

It may be the case with my wife and I as well. We've discussed it, and whoever makes more per 2 weeks will be the one to continue work. But we'd both want that choice to be our own.

And also to be more specific, my dad was Wilbur Crawley. Worked at Faurecia, and was over 50+ engineers in an automotive setting. After being burnt by 2 engineers he brought on, whom were women, both within 2 years were pregnant. Cool, none of his concern, until they FMLA'd and were out for about a year each.

Both projects they were put in charge of were scrapped as the projects themselves had one less person (leaving 2 engineers). They were beaten to market on one of them and the other one fizzled as the engineers were reassigned.

And this also goes back to male vs. female salary issues too. Do women get paid as well as men, given the appropriate experience level? The main source I know of has bad controls. But, the more I think regarding this, what is the cost of FMLA with regard to women?

Is Salary_man == Salary_woman + FMLA_cost ? Ugly indeed.

How were they out on the FMLA for a year? The federal FMLA caps out at 12 weeks, and I'm not aware of any state that has a FMLA that would extend to a year's leave.

> they can leave pretty much at any time due to FMLA, and hiring someone else is not feasible (due to law).

Why? Around here you see plenty of job offers that go "must start on X and will be terminated on Y (1 year later) -- to replace an employee on maternity leave". I would imagine you would publish that offer plenty of months in advance to X, so you'll have a replacement person hired on time.

In Canada those rights are extended to the man. It's called paternity leave. The parent even mentions that he split the leave with his partner.

There are still cultural barriers resulting in many men not taking the leave, but at least it's an option.

I should note that I think tying the unemployment insurance to maternity/paternity leave is genius.

> "Punishing them for hiring women who want a family" is a curious way to put it.

The reason that private companies should be expected to perhaps shoulder SOME of this "burden" (I disagree with your choice of wording there) is that we all live together in a goddamn society and there should be a part of everyone's effort (private individuals, businesses and the government) that goes towards the overall betterment of that society as a whole, and that includes supporting those that choose to procreate and keep our society going.

Right, but if private companies had to pay for parental leave directly rather than through taxes, they would have a huge incentive to avoid hiring people who wanted to start families.

Taxes are the right way to pay for this, just like most things that are for the overall betterment of society.

But the burden is unequal based on the percentage of women at one company compared to another company. When hiring a woman, the company would have to understand that it would cost more to hire her (at equal pay) than it would to hire a man.

In my opinion that's what taxes are supposed to be, not just for carrying the "burden" of children but ALL the "burdens" and "advantages" of being together in a society.

No because it concentrates the burden onto the employer and creates very real economic incentives to avoid hiring women from certain age ranges depending on the industry.

It's like telling corporations they can't buy insurance for a semi-common event since they should 'shoulder SOME of this "burden"' and just self insure. The entire point of their taxes/insurance should be distributing the cost of something like this. They shoulder the burden through their taxes, and it keeps it fair.

Congrats you just argued for a social welfare system. This is what modern societies do. Yet, for some reason in the US it's branded as socialism which is viewed as equal to communism which is evil and therefore never enters the debate.

You just listed how the Canadian policy lets the husband take time also (more time, if they want, such as in your case). That suggests that companies would be equally "punished" by hiring men who want families. Why would that policy only harm women's employment options?

Because realistically I'm unusual for using it, and I used it for only one of my three kids.

In my progressive, bleeding-heart-liberal family? The man still represented only 7 months of leave time, while the woman represented 29. The "leave cost" whatever it may be was 4X higher for my wife.

From a policy perspective, it's roughly egalitarian... but you can't ignore the cultural difference that means 100% maternal leave is the default assumption.

Estonia has 78 weeks of paid Maternity OR Paternity leave, parents can choose which one stays home and gets to take care of the baby.

What? That's ridiculous. Does the employer pay or is it government assistance?

In the entire EU you can take unlimited sick leave(which does not take away anything from your mandatory 25 days of paid holidays), and the employer has to pay only for the first 30 days - after that, the government continues paying your salary(it might be 75% of the full salary in some countries). If you are sick for long periods of time(>2-3 months) they might require you visit an approved doctor, otherwise they stop paying. The same rules apply to maternity/paternity leave.

Quite a few years ago, I had six months off work sick, followed by a gradual build-up to full-time work again over another six months. I got full pay throughout and a wonderful occupational health department complete with doctors looking after me. That's what you get with a good employer in the UK.

State pays, there is an upper limit which to my recollection is somewhere between two and three times the average salary in Estonia.

Canada's 50 weeks come after a 2-week waiting period, and pay 55% of weekly salary up to $500. Not exactly the land of milk and honey.

Also a little unfair to compare the whole of the US as one nation -- family leave is handled at the state level. CA, HI, and a few others have somewhat sane family leave laws.

Who pays for it? The State or the employer?

In Norway you get 49 weeks with 100% pay covered by the state (up to $80k), or 59 weeks with 80%. For those who earn more than $80k, most employers pay the rest.

In Chile the State pays for it.

The upward limit on the payment OTOH is quite low (<US$2k/month) but most employers choose to supplement the State payment with the balance of your paycheck.

> Let this serve as a warning for young (age-with-a-potential-to-have-a-family) people who might be tempted to relocate to California

It's interesting. This is a difficult conversation to have. I have good personal reasons for wanting to relocate to California (I'm British/not American so this is difficult), though logistically it doesn't seem like that will/can happen. What I don't understand though is why so many people want to move to the USA just because. From a purely outside perspective, it seems like it's fairly low down in terms of standard of living/worker's rights/healthcare/etc. For the lucky few (of which those reading here might be over-represented) it's great, but otherwise... I just don't understand. Even for salary I don't see it–I'm entering a short postdoctoral programme at the moment and my salary in the UK is about 1.7 times what I would expect in the states, and it's not like my salary in the UK is even that good(!) and I know full well I'd be worked to death over there too.

I just don't understand. But it's such a can of worms (personal politics, patriotism etc.) that it's difficult to talk about. I will say this though, it really is a beautiful country/continent, and all the people I've met seem pretty happy.

> I'm entering a short postdoctoral programme at the moment and my salary in the UK is about 1.7 times what I would expect in the states

It sounds like you're working in academia, a sector which is under pressure from way too many people who would like to enter it. It's pretty likely you don't want to and won't get to work in the United States in this sector: the market is very saturated.

For other positions in the United States, it's more plausible to find comparable or better salaries. In many areas you can also expect lower tax burdens and lower costs of living, especially if you're interested in owning a small home of your own or if you expect to operate a motor vehicle (your petrol prices are twice as high as ours because taxes). Rising medical costs are an ongoing concern, and recent reform attempts have done an excellent job at not fixing this, while possibly also undermining the economic recovery in general. :(

"Workers' rights" are in fact more limited, but the labor market is typically much more dynamic and as such when there is hiring going on in the economy at large, it's much easier to actually get hired to begin with and change jobs to a better employer. It's especially much easier to break into new fields as a young person -- youth unemployment has long been a chronic problem throughout much of the EU, including the UK, and it's only at the bottom of this last recession that the US has reached similar levels, despite many EU nations having more favorable demographics which should mitigate against it. (The US has more illegal immigrants than some EU member nations have citizens.) So this is sort of a risk / reward tradeoff.

Now myself, I'm pondering a job offer which would put me in London in a year, so I'll get a glimpse at things over there in practice before too long. :)

Thanks for the insight. I'm seriously considering leaving academia at the end of my current contract, but visa-wise it seems even more difficult to get a H1-B than an academic visa. But we shall see. Good luck with London if you make it! :)

H1-B visas are easy for academics to get (there isn't a cap on the number issued, unlike industry). While these H1-B visas cannot be transferred between academia and industry, they do allow you to start applying for residency.

The advantage of going to CA, and then leaving academia, would be better access to local employers, who often don't recruit abroad. You still face the visa problem, though.

In addition to the financial considerations mentioned above, most US employers don't make very large contributions to funding pensions (~5% "matching 401K" is considered generous), whereas the total contribution at UK universities is about 16% of salary.

If you do go abroad, don't forget to continue paying minimal national insurance contributions in the UK. This will help if you suddenly need expensive medical care, become unemployed, etc.


UK to US is not as straightforward as say Russia to US (my path). Yes, Russia offers a lot better protection on paper, but what most people don't think about is that in most of the world what is written is very often not what is in practice.

The US state of post-doc employment is well documented to be abysmal. I never had to go through it, but had the privilege to work with people that had and gave up, going tech route instead.

Because of taxation and general consumerism, you get great standard of living as long as nothing bad happens. On average luxury goods are cheaper in US. You even have the option of Oregon to avoid sales tax on big purchases all together (doesn't work on cars easily).

The weather/nature in Bay Area is amazing too. Los Angeles is a bit more desert-like, but still great.

Can't speak for east coast though.

>it seems like it's fairly low down in terms of standard of living/worker's rights/healthcare/etc.

While this is certainly true when you discuss the bare minimum legal requirements, many employers here go above and beyond the requirements and offer benefits that are equal to what you find in other countries.

The problem is those problem employers are in the majority. The many employers you're thinking of are typically in the STEM fields or highly unionized gov't, manufacturing, transportation industries.

>The many employers you're thinking of are typically in the STEM fields or highly unionized gov't, manufacturing, transportation industries.

Not trying to start an argument, but do you have any sources for this? I work for an independent school and my benefits are fantastic.

> I work for an independent school and my benefits are fantastic.

Thank you. This is the perfect example of an anecdote. Walmart, the largest employer in the US at 2.2mm employees. Guess who FMLA benefits don't apply to? Small businesses (<50 employees) and part-time employees. Guess who is the biggest part-time employer?

And know I don't have numbers. Other countries have created a uniform referable benefits baseline that companies are required to provide. For me to answer your question I would need to interrogate every US company. There are research companies that do exactly that, I would need to pay for their answers.

Few things make my blood boil more than people that robotically say things like "It's the policy" with the kind of compassion and empathy that a robot would show, and then go about their business without a care in the world.

This is what edmund burke meant when he said "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," and Arendt meant when she coined the term "The banality of evil."

But I always thought it was put best by some blogger I read years ago. They said that in the fantasy or religious worlds, evil is something that just exists so corporeally that it might as well be a noun. An evil rock is evil by definition.

But in the real world, such things don't exist. Evil is not a state of being or can be encapsulated in an object. The closest definition to evil that can be defined from a real world viewpoint, is the undertaking of action that is done (usually out of selfishness) at the known expense of others.

Anyway, that's exactly what you are reacting to. That's objective evil. And not to go full godwin, but our society has had large public trials where we collectively decided that simply acting in accordance with one's job is not a moral defense.

Just a tiny nitpick - Arendt was a woman - Hannah Arendt to be more precise.

Updated, thanks!

*she coined the term "banality of evil."

At the very least when dealing with monstrous policy, the correct thing to do is refer them to somebody who has the power to change the policy.

Agreed. However, in this situation, it would be in tight competition with the HR person saying "You're changing your story!". Absolutely disgusting. Is this a discussion with an employer or an interrogation of a criminal.

This makes my blood boil, too.

I'd also like to point out that skimpy paternity leave policy is also bad for mothers. Some mothers are fortunate to have friends and family willing to pause their lives to help with the transition and recovery, but some really need the father around to take over running the household, especially if there were complications during the birth.

Lack of paternity leave ties directly into social assumptions that the mother is the carer, the "mommy track" at work, and through to the assumption of custody for the mother. I don't understand why it isn't a bigger issue. You should even be able to get feminists and MRA guys to work together on this one!

I agree that paternity leave should be more generous and universal, but there a physiological reasons (tenderness, hormonal changes, breastfeeding, etc.) why mothers may not be able to work.

I can recognize that while still thinking the entire family, and society as a whole, is shortchanged by undervaluing the contributions of fathers to families with newborns.

While some legal reforms are probably needed, I don't see why employers shouldn't be called to task for their policies in these areas. If corporate leaders can be called to task for off-the-cuff statements, why can't they be called to task for something with such an immediate and obvious impact?

EDIT: I'll also add a coda here to point out that most pregnancies are unplanned. Expecting new mothers and fathers to have prescience with respect to parental leave is unrealistic at best.

Myself and all the feminists I know are definitely in favor of paternity leave. I'm having a hard time imagining an argument against it.

I'm for it, but it's harder to legislate.

What if the father and the spouse are different people? What if someone meets and moves in with an already pregnant woman? What there isn't a spouse/SO but a live-in grandmother would want time off to perform similar functions?

It will be a challenge to both accommodate diverse family situations and make sure all newborns and mothers are properly cared for.

I don't think that's a relevant argument. The FMLA already defines fatherhood and provides paternity leave -- it just suffers from all the many restrictions and drawbacks as the maternity leave that are highlighted in the article.

A policy that works and feels fair for EVERY possible family situation is probably not possible. Shouldn't stop us from trying to improve things for most people.

Aside from police brutality, all the spying and erosion of privacy, corruption at high level (like regulatory capture), the medical and insurance situation points more to the fact that this country -- US, is not a civilized country.

It is a country with a high GDP, strong military, good natural resources, strong manufacturing. All those nice things. But it is still not a civilized country.

As a counterpoint from civilized Germany, after the birth of a child both parents are granted 14 months paid leave (at 2/3 salary up to ~$3k/mo) to split between them. Usually the mother takes 12 and the father 2 concurrently. The state pays for this, not the employer.

You also have the right to 3 years unpaid leave (extended with further children) and the employer must find you a similar position when you return to work.

So far this has neither economically crippled the nation nor made it impossible for its companies to compete on the international market, nor driven all the manufacturing and blue-collar work abroad.

I'm just astonished how such different systems can coexist. What are the benefits of the American system and who receives them? A lower tax burden? Is it really that much lower to be worth it?

The real "benefit" of the American system is that it keeps everyone eager. It keeps us grateful to have a crappy job at all. It keeps us ready to trade salary for benefits, or vice versa. It keeps us at jobs we don't like for the medical benefits we think they give us and our families. It reduces the bargaining power of labor.

Is this good in the long term? Maybe not, but it is the American aesthetic. It goes hand in hand with the perpetual hope that we will win the lottery/start the next Facebook/work our way up the ladder and then we too can benefit from low taxes. That's why poor Americans defend the privileges of rich Americans to the death: if we ever make it up there we want those privileges to remain!

That can't be the case. Pretty much every country with a better handle on these things, also has a young, eagar often educated workforce.

A thought from Jimmy Carter comes to mind. He said countries are not really 'democracies' or 'not democracies' but rather that democracy is either strong or weak. Similarly, one shouldn't say the USA is uncivilised but that some of it's civic institutions are weak in some ways. Additionally they do not uniformly share the same strengths and weaknesses across the entire country.

I think that's an enlightening way of looking at things, but doesn't quite bring the same shame as referring to ourselves as an uncivilized country.

Perhaps if the national debate was about being a civilized country instead of framing it as 'socialism' we'd eventually be able to move into the modern era in the context of social policy.

I strongly agree. Its interesting how the US chooses policies some times. The culture here is very different from most other civilized countries.

Countries with no national paid maternity leave policy: US, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Liberia [1]

Countries who have executed people in the past 25 years who were under 18 at the time of their crimes: The People's Republic of China (PRC), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United States and Yemen. [2]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave (also noted elsewhere in the comments)

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment#Juvenile_off... Admittedly this fact is cherry picked. The US has since changed the policy

Its unfortunate that there are not laws preventing things like this from happening. Too many people in the US do not want the government to impose laws or regulations just because they oppose any government interference what so ever. Even if the interference will benefit everyone.

People have a choice where they work. Had this happened to me I would be high tailing it out of there but professors dont have that luxury.

It is sad how people who would benefit most from it can easily be brainwashed to vote against it. This is summed best by the ironic "get your government out of my Medicare" slogan. It is not a real slogan but it is used as a joke to illustrate the underlying logic.

Uncivilized, really? We certainly have issues, but I think that's a bit much. Those are all very real problems, but for the most part our day to day lives are very civilized. And there are ways to fix these problems, it just isn't easy.

All of which is based on your perception of reality, all of which comes from news.

News are by definitions things that almost never happen.

Define corruption level, quantify it, and then we can talk.

I am a graduate student, my wife is a post-doc, and we are expecting our first child in the next few weeks. I actually just found out that my school recently (this summer) made a policy allowing graduate students to take up to 60 days of paid leave, so I am fortunate here at BU. I didn't realize how bad the US policies are until we started talking with our (mostly foreign) coworkers who were all surprised that my wife is still at work even though she is expecting a baby in a few weeks. We both work in supportive labs that would probably give us the time off that we need regardless of the school policy, but it is scary to think what it would be like even working in another lab at the same school some times. We really need to do more to support the women working in the US especially when it comes to family friendly leave.

I am also at BU (staff) and my wife and I had our first child this past spring. Our benefits are good compared to my past employers, and I took a few weeks of paid vacation time so I could stay home with my wife and help after her c-section. I'm glad to hear that there is leave available for graduate students as well. Are the 60 days of paid leave for sick time or paternity leave? I had not heard that anything changed recently with the rules around time off.

Best of luck to you and your wife!

The 60 days are specified as paid paternity or maternity leave[1]. I don't actually know what the sick leave policy is. As a graduate student your schedule is flexible. I am not taking classes, but I can work as much as I want, and as long as the vacations are reasonable they aren't really tracked. I think that goes along with officially being paid for 39 hours a week with the expectation that you are there much more.

[1] http://www.bu.edu/academics/policies/childbirth-and-adoption...

"You will be shocked to hear that the updated policy was developed in part by a man who does not have children."

You will be shocked to hear that even men without children can recognize the need to retain employees that they value, because you can be sure that your competitors in the employment market will offer less misogynistic polices.

Sadly, I had to argue this very point years ago with my Microsoft coworkers. "Wah, I don't have kids, it's unfair!" Hey, I don't have kids and never will, but that doesn't mean I can't recognize the value of offering company benefits that I will never use.

It sounds like OP works in academia. Unless you have tenure, the job market works in reverse in academa: you need them more than they need you. So they are free to fuck you over because there's always someone else ready and willing to take your place.

Yeah, I'm with you. I fully realize that I work in an industry that allows me to build a hell of a nest egg, and easily find a job elsewhere. Someone posed the question elsewhere in the comments about "what if your sick time runs out and you're still sick?" Easy, I tell my employer what the deal is and provide a doctor's note if requested. They don't like it? Fine, don't pay me. Fire me? That's fine, too, I've got a pile of money for such a contingency and I'll find another job later. (That does not, however, preclude seeking the advice of an employment lawyer should I view the company to have acted poorly. If not for myself, then for everyone else. EDIT: and for the record, none of that hypothetical has happened.)

But not all, probably only few, are that fortunate. And though as I grow older and have less need for such safety nets, I also grow to realize that shit needs to change for all.

Mothers in the UK get a full year of maternity leave at 90% pay for the first 6 weeks and then about $200/week after. You can elect to return to work earlier (although you have to take at least 2 weeks). You can start the maternity leave up to 11 weeks before the due date.

And the UK isn't even particularly progressive about this sort of thing. Norwegians get 13 months at 80% pay followed by up to a year unpaid. In Spain you can take up to 3 years unpaid.

It can go up in the UK depending on your employer. IIRC my wife got 6 months on full pay and then 6 months on the statutory (government) maternity pay.

Absolutely, good employers do much more than the minimum. But that's true in the US too.

This is reminding me of my first intern job, when I'd gotten an email about "donating vacation days" to someone with an extended illness who'd used up theirs. I didn't have any vacation days anyway because I was hourly, but I was kind of confused why taking sick time when you're sick required having coworkers "donate" it, so I asked a coworker why donating vacation days was even a thing. Coworker seemed a little dismayed, thought I was saying that it didn't make sense for people to help out a sick coworker. I had just assumed that the company wouldn't give people a hard time about having cancer.

A very reasonable assumption, I thought. Reading these stories makes me appreciate living where I live so much more, but also fear what seems to be the gradual dismantling off all that over the past years.

I think we should have paid maternity leave and I think the federal govt should pay for it. If you force employers to pay for it you discourage the hiring of young women.

"I think the federal govt should pay for it."

Please have the decency to be explicit about what you are saying. No government, federal or otherwise, has any means to pay for anything. All money comes from taxes. All taxes come from individuals. What you are really saying is "I think all of the taxpaying individuals in the United States should pay for women's maternity leave."

Once you recognize that, I can do no better than quote P.J. O'Rourke: "...remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head.

Not paying taxes is against the law. If you don't pay taxes, you'll be fined. If you don't pay the fine, you'll be jailed. If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot.

Thus I -- in my role as citizen and voter -- am going to shoot you -- in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck -- if you don't pay your fair share of the national tab.

Therefore, every time the government spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, "Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?"

So, would you kill your mother to pay for someone else's maternity leave?

That contorted chain of logic is quite striking. And even then you miss the other questions you need to ask yourself.

"Would my kindly, gray-haired mother refuse to pay taxes for this?" "If she didn't, would my kindly, gray-haired mother really manage to escape from prison?" "Even if she did escape, am I certain that she would be shot instead of apprehended and re-arrested like the majority of other escapees?"

And this is, of course, all conditional on the idea that the government would simply throw you in jail right off instead of garnishing wages or seizing assets to cover the tab (you know, the things that would actually happen).

And the best part about all of this is that, all you've really come down to is the idea that maybe the parent commenter didn't realize that governments can't pay for things without taxes, as if that very basic feature of how governments work had momentarily escaped dmm just as he was typing to an HN <textarea>.

Every decent behavior anybody has in public can be explained by 'holding a gun to their head' by the same chain of logic. You spit on the sidewalk, you get fined. And so on.

This holds the average citizen in contempt, and I reject the whole sophomoric chain of 'causation'. People behave because they're civilized and orderly and want their community to thrive.

So lets get the conversation back to, how do we want to maintain a standard of living that benefits us all. Through taxes and rules and institutions, like we have always done.

A more serious response:

As a member of a "society", be it a country or a family or anything between, you have to abide by the customary procedure by which decisions affecting everyone are made. (Maybe they are majority vote, maybe they are by autocratic rule, maybe they are endless discussions in an effort to reach consensus, or whatever.) In some cases, you may disagree with the outcome of such decisions, and it is then up to you to decide whether the advantages of remaining associated with the group outweigh the disadvantages. If the answer is that they do not, you are (in most cases in the civilized world) free to leave. Such is the case here, because you are in fact free to not pay taxes to the American government: There is a procedure by which you can resign your American citizenship, and no gun will be held to your head. (You will however be forced to pay $2500 or something for the privilege.)

If you remain, you do so because you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, even after having lost the argument about whether maternity leave should be paid for by taxes. No one is holding a gun to your head, even in the most extreme situation imaginable.

So please stop that absurd line of reasoning.

I wouldn't kill my mother for that.

But fortunately I wouldn't have to, because she pays her taxes. And is proud to, last I checked.

As you can tell, I reject your whole line of thinking.

It makes a bunch of assumptions to carry the situation to extremes, and then innocently asks, "you wouldn't want that extreme outcome, would you?". The same argument can be made against any form of regulation whatsoever.

"...remember that all tax revenue is the result of holding a gun to somebody's head."

Wow! I never noticed, and I've been paying taxes for 25 years...

As you said, nothing is free. If you refuse to pay for the upkeep of the society that you are part of, you can either leave, or be removed from it.

It's really easy to get the wrong idea about post-childbirth from just watching your friends have kids on Facebook. I think it's commonplace to assume that the birth is the difficult part, because nobody posts about their trauma in the weeks that follow. Birthing a child ranks on the scale of sick-day-worthiness somewhere near a gunshot wound. This woman's treatment is deplorable. (And yes, the whole damn system is deplorable.)

There should a name and shame on this one. What is the university, and what does it think it is doing?

Author info at the end says "Karen W. is a Duke City denizen..." I'm not sure if that's misdirection, but "Duke City" is another name for Albuquerque, NM.

Edit: This is interesting. Not saying it's University of New Mexico, but it is in Albuquerque and this includes a reference to her exact phrase "pregnancy or prenatal care" : http://policy.unm.edu/university-policies/3000/3440.html

And, on their FAQ under #21: http://hr.unm.edu/benefits/fmla.php#faqs ... Mentions "serious medical condition"

As well as their contract : http://hr.unm.edu/docs/labor-relations/united-staff-unm-(usu... mentions "pregnancy or prenatal care"

Please don't do that. Posting personal information about people who did not wish to have it public is super uncool. I'm sure if she wanted to name the university she would have.

There's no personal information here. Everything you see was what she had posted at the very end of the article, her signature, and common knowledge "Duke City" is Albuquerque. What remains were DDG searches for the specific phrases she put into her article in quotes.

I understand "outing" is a legitimate concern, but these are bits of information that she herself has revealed. The rest is conjecture, as I'm sure she would have expected of her audience as an educated and reasonably intelligent person.

Where she works is definitely personal information. And I don't think you should post that sort of conjecture. At best, you're revealing something the author didn't want to be revealed and at worst you are fingering the wrong organization.

Hence, my prefix "Not saying it's University of New Mexico". Surely, the purpose of a discussion forum is to foster discussion? I didn't exactly go digging deep for this information and hitting the frontpage of HN would virtually ensure this exact line of reasoning will be repeated many places elsewhere.

The author strikes me as someone who carefully weighed the consequences of sharing the story.

Actually, it's better without a name because it's a widespread problem. If she gave a name, people might think that it's an isolated incident.

This is a systemic problem here in the US. It would be counterproductive to try and single out one actor when the issue needs to be address comprehensively.

Why not? Sometimes people desperately organize boycotts of institutions that they want to behave, but it never succeeds, because everyone needs at least one of the institutions (for example, everybody needs to be employed).

I think maybe there could be a lottery and people could collectively agree and randomly single out one actor and boycott it for some time. That would force at least that one actor to care and enforce competition. Who cares about fairness, if everybody is guilty?

I disagree. Naming the bad actor would hopefully shame them into changing their policy.... which in turn would put other unnamed bad actors on notice and encourage further naming and shaming by individuals working for them.

If you want to move the earth, starting a landslide is a lot easier than strip-mining.

Isn't that a decision for the author? Clearly she decided differently.

The focus is the policy, not the policy's enforcers.

It's completely insane that US doesn't have unlimited sick leave like EU does. It's just backwards and ridiculous - if someone is ill, then they are ill, what if they don't have any sick leave left? You fire them? I literally can't stomach this. When I was little I always thought I would emigrate to the States to work - now I would pay not to go.

Yes. When I was sick* I managed to work part time and use banked sick and vacation hours all the way through, but it was rough. If I had been unable to work at all I would have had to invoke short term disability, which iirc lasted six weeks. After that, I would have been fired. I had worked for the company for less than six months so I was unable to invoke FMLA at all.

These days I'm independent and have a very large cash buffer in case something else happens. Planning with cash is way easier than trying to negotiate giant employer leave policies, in my experience.

*I was diagnosed with a very treatable form of cancer in November 2012.

Yep. Discovered I had cancer in the fall of 2005. My firm told me they would be so generous to keep me employed throughout my treatment. Got fired the week before Christmas (while still going through chemo) because the company was being sold and they wanted to minimize headcount. And companies wonder why there's no loyalty anymore.

That's brutal! Chemo is one of the crappiest things that I've ever experienced, I can't even imagine having to think about looking for work at the same time. I hope you're doing well now.

Yep, completely healthy and I often forget that I ever had cancer. Of course the names of the company officers are etched in my memory, but hopefully over time I won't harbor such a grudge.

Outside of the Valley and New York, where there's less competition for talent, there are many companies that deduct sick days from vacation. This allows them to say that they offer 15 days (which, by US standards, is about average) of "PTO" in recruiting when it's actually less.

When companies pull that shit, you see people getting a lot sicker, because people come into the office when they should be staying home. The month of February becomes a constant, never-ending cold.

> Outside of the Valley and New York, where there's less competition for talent, there are many companies that deduct sick days from vacation.

That's a brand new level of fucked up behavior, holy hell.

I'm at my first job out of college and it's like that here (taking off if you're sick = PTO)

Is that not the norm?

Yeah, most good office jobs give you sick days "as needed" - take them on the honor system, don't abuse it or your manager will get suspicious, but they don't check up on it. The reason is that they don't want to incentivize employees to come to work when sick, because then they get everyone else sick and the whole office's productivity is reduced.

Not at decent companies.

Stick it out for a year or two (to avoid the "job hopper" stigma) if you don't hate it, and bounce. Why be loyal to a company that isn't loyal to you?

I have to use PTO for sick days in SF. Oops.

If you're in SF, you have no excuse not to get out.

Companies that make you use PTO for sick days have given up on playing against the market and are now playing against their employees. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

In the UK our [pm]aternity leave allowance is not exactly enlightened, but even so this left me open-mouthed. Scandinavian readers or readers from other countries that actually bother to look after their workers properly must be utterly incredulous at your treatment.

I work for an employer with generous benefit policies and am male, but even still ran into enough HR nonsense that it felt as if I was the first human working for an organization with over 150k employees who had ever had a child.

In short, I was:

- Warned that I could potentially be charged with fraud for enrolling my wife in family health coverage before the baby's birth.

- Told that I would "void my FMLA rights" if I performed any work activity while off. (Although I had 10 weeks of paid accruals and supervisory approval to take off!) The overzealous HR person tried to have my accounts disabled as well. Stopping this required that I walk into the HR Director's office and complain -- not an option for people lower down in the hierarchy.

- Charged $750 because my son had the temerity to be born after the new year, and hospitalization pre-approvals expire with the calendar year.

My wife had a whole litany of wacky things happen. It is a nightmare.

Nasty treatment. And in many places you can't even attempt to bank the sick-leave in the first place.

Or bank any leave at all. My current employer wipes vacation days on Jan 1.

My experience with employers in general is use any benefit you accrue as soon as you reasonably can. Don't save stuff up; it makes you vulnerable to your employers incompetence or greed.

This. Also, flexible sick days(ie, "unlimited").. it works out nice for when you get the flu or whatever and don't have to worry about how many sick days you burn, but a major event like this doesn't really apply and you'll end up needing to burn vacation days or take unpaid leave to recover, not to mention wanting any bonding time

My last two places were like this. I can't say I was happy about changing, but I can say I priced it into the equation.

In some places, that policy is in place to encourage employees to actually take time off. If it wasn't use-it-or-lose-it, some people would never take leave.

We always hear this, but it doesn't really make sense. First, a firm that actually wanted employees to take vacation could just make a policy by which a certain percentage of banked time would be automatically scheduled by HR after so long a period of banking. Second, under the "lose-it" policy, many employees don't actually use all their allotted vacation. This can happen even to those who really try to schedule it. A cynical manager can always stymie the best-considered vacation plans. I consider that this common result is actually the intent of this anti-employee policy. (At many firms; of course any particular firm may be an exception.)

No, it is so the employer doesn't need to carry the additional liability in their accounting. Vacation time is something with a monetary value that must be paid out if the employee is terminated.

Aren't they generally required to pay you for accrued leave or is even that not required?

My employer will not pay us for accrued leave. I saw the end result recently when a co-worker took a week and a half off only to return with his resignation in hand. Guess he cashed out his vacation time anyway....

Now we all realize that if someone is going to resign, it's most likely going to happen after a long vacation. I don't know if HR realizes this yet.

(not a lawyer) I think in the US (oops, probably should have said California) generally accrued vacation has to be paid off (as it is accounted for at the time it is earned, but there may also be a cap which causes some to disappear). But sick days are not generally considered a benefit and avoid this. I imagine "flex time" is more complicated.

Usually depends on which state you are in. California I believe they are required to pay up to a certain number of hours.

In CA leave is vested, it has to be paid out. Not all states have this policy.

In most states, that's not required.


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