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Maternity/Family Leave

The following messages about family/parental/maternity leave appeared on
WMST-L between 1997 and 1999.  Most of what follows deals with parental 
leave policies in place at institutions of higher education in the U.S.  
The file also contains some discussion of the implications of gender-neutral 
language for "maternity leave" as well as discussion of the Family Leave Act.
For additional WMST-L files now available on the Web, see the
WMST-L File List. .
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:20:01 -0400
From: Elisabeth Rose Gruner <gruner @ URVAX.URICH.EDU>
Subject: parental leave policies
A colleague who is not on WMST-L has asked me to post the following query
to the list.  Responses should go to me (my address is listed below) or to
Roxanne Eberle (REBERLE  @  UGA.CC.UGA.EDU).

The question is this: what sort of parental leave policies does your
institution have, if any?  Responses are most helpful if you are at a large
public university (for comparison's sake).  "Parental leave" policies might
include stopping the tenure clock, maternity leave (compensated or not),
adoption leave, etc.

Private replies are probably best for this one; if anyone wants I'll try to
compile the responses and post to the list.


Elisabeth Rose Gruner
Assistant Professor of English &
 Coordinator of Women's Studies
University of Richmond
Richmond VA 23173
gruner  @  urvax.urich.edu
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 16:52:54 -0400
From: Elisabeth Rose Gruner <gruner @ URVAX.URICH.EDU>
Subject: parental leave policies--thank you (long)
Thanks to those who responded to my question about parental leave.  As
often happens, I got as many requests for this information as I got
substantive responses!  So there's work to be done out there.  Here are the
responses I received:

From Chapman Univ. California:

At our university, all full time or qualifying part time administrators,
staff and faculty are eligible for the State's policy on pregnancy
disability:  four weeks prior to due date, six weeks after
vaginal/uncomplicated delivery, 12 weeks for c-section/complicated
delivery.  The employee's salary is reduced however much the State pays, so
that she receives the same amount.

Administrators and staff may also use sick days and vacation time to
supplement their leave at full pay.

For faculty, it's a slightly different story; we don't have sick days or
vacation days, so it's "every woman for herself" in terms of negotiating
what form her leave will take.

For example, I'm on leave right now -- expecting a baby any minute.  If I
were to follow the State clock -- assuming all goes well -- I would go back
to work about five weeks before the semester ended.  I would take over my
three classes from a sub who had been teaching from day one.  My dean and
chair agreed that this was not a good idea, for the students or for me, and
were willing to work out a way I could have the additional five weeks off.
My answer was to continue my administrative duties as graduate coordinator
for the MFA in creative writing and to develop an online writing course for
our Academic Centers to be taught next year.  The important point is that
I'm not to be doing either of these things while receiving State money.  I
also have two crackerjack grad assts in my office, each working about 20
hours a week while I'm gone, or I could not maintain any sense of control
over the recruiting/administration of the MFA program.  Plus, I have
another "web wizard" GA who puts in up to 10-20 hours per week helping me
w/ web tasks.

Needless to say, I'm delighted with a leave that, essentially, makes it
possible for me to not work until my child is six months old and I return
to a regular schedule in September, but my experiences are rare -- at
Chapman and elsewhere.  Most women are coming back as soon as their
disability is up, regardless of how good it is for anyone.  The policy at
Chapman depends on the iniative of the individual seeking the leave, the
flexibility of her chair, the availability of support staff and additional
faculty to help cover her responsibilities and the approval of the dean.
It probably doesn't all add up as well as it did for me.

From Univ. Colorado, Denver:
The University of Colorado system has a parental leave
policy (sort of) which follows the guidelines of the Federal Family Leave
Act.  One can take up to a year unpaid; or take sick leave (however much one
has accumulated at the rate of two weeks a year). The problem, obviously,
(and this is what we are currently working on) is that most people cannot
afford to take unpaid leave, and women faculty having or adopting babies
have not usually been here long enough to have enough sick leave to cover a
semester.  We have come up with three solutions: (1) "banking" courses, ie.
teaching an extra course or two in the semesters preceding the leave (we
teach 3-2)  -- this at least relieves the teaching load in the semester you
are "off", leaving you with research and committees, all of which can be
done more flexibly. (2) "differentiated work load"  - this is better than
banking in that the department chair can simply relieve you of teaching and
assign you some other duties.  The arrangement can include more teaching
later or not, as the department chooses; (3) "buyout" of courses -- this is
done by converting total accumulated sick leave into cash value, and
translating that amount into payments to part time faculty who would teach
your courses.  For example, at a $35,000 salary, an accumulated six weeks of
sick leave works out to about $4000 (divide the salary by 52, then multiply
by 6), enough at our (Denver) campus to pay for two courses to be taught.
This has not been formally approved, but a colleague on the Colorado Springs
campus has just done it, an arrangement worked out with her chair.  The
problem with all of these solutions is that they depend on the good will of
the chair or dean
which usually works but sometimes does not.  We are trying to put together
an array of options which can be tailored to individual needs, and
especially to publicize them so that each woman in this situation does not
have to start from scratch to work out a reduced load.
        We do have as part of our policy a one year delay on the tenure
clock. Since it is a family leave it would work for birth, adoption,
illness,etc.  We do not have the money to pay for a leave.  We have
investigated the possibility of short term disability through our medical
insurance but it dovetails with sick leave in such a way as to really
eliminated its value.

From Kansas State Univ:
KSU complies with the Family & Medical Leave Act by granting employees up
to 12 weeks unpaid leave for teh birth, adoption, or foster placement of a
child; for a serious health condition of the employee; or for an employee
to care for the employee's family member with a serious health condition.

Taking this leave may allow for up to one year delay in the tenure clock.

For more info see http://www.ksu.edu/uauc/forms/fmla.html

From Myra Rich:
You and your colleague might be interested in a group of
papers dealing w/ family leave policies and practices given at the American
Historical Asssn meeting in Jan. 1996 and published in The History Teacher
29, no.4 (August 1996).  My contribution, "Designer Clocks for Academic
Careers," offers some data about policies at both public and private
institutions. Marilyn Boxer

And a final caveat from Susan Barber:
I am just putting together a Women, Law and Technology Program and
one of our sessions is entitled "The Electronic Leash" and questions
whether leaves and vacations still really exist in light of the
technology that exists---computers (laptops), faxes, cell phones.
Attorneys find themselves still hooked up when they are away from the
office.  Clients expect it and often so do bosses.  So--question to
ask would be what the ground rules are for accessibility (which women
seem to be more inclined to be) and whether one can still be
competitive in business if you're not totally accessible.

Elisabeth Rose Gruner
Assistant Professor of English  & Women's Studies
Coordinator of Women's Studies
University of Richmond
Richmond VA 23173
gruner  @  urvax.urich.edu
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 10:55:40 -0500
From: beatricekachuck <bkachuck @ CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject: Re: parental leave policies--thank you (long)
Elizabeth is right, there's work to be done for vastly improved parental,
I'd say family leave in the academy.
        In the work, shouldn't we do what we teach, women working
collectively across  class, etc. lines? I have in mind staff, students, and
figuring out how adjuncts (increasingly large proportions of faculty). The
issue for graduate can be sharp: they work within time limits to complete
doctoral and masters degrees. Yes, men should have paid family leave, too.
        beatrice        bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.mci.net
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 11:19:07 -0500
From: Amelia Carr <acarr @ ALLEG.EDU>
Subject: Re: gender-neutral language
My mother Peg Carr is a journals editor at the Ohio State
University Press, who publishes Journal of Money, Credit, and
Banking--as business oriented a journal as you can get!  She has
this to say about gender-neutral language.

From Peg Carr
Good morning.  The policy throughout the Press is to use gender-neutral
language.  I find less and less masculine language in the papers
to me for publication, but if I do, I rewrite to change it to
gender-neutral.  Sometimes it's easy, such as changing "policymaker
.. he"
to "policymakers ... they" but often there are real challenges that
actual work!!  _The Bias-Free Word Finder_ by Rosalie Maggio is a good
source; subtitled "A dictionary of nondiscriminatory language," it covers
everything from "man: human" to "goody-two-shoes" and "maternity leave"
(parental/family leave) and "kingdom" (realm)  -- as well as language
discriminatory in ways other than gender.  It's fascinating to browse.

My authors are academic or research officers from the Federal
Reserve Banks,
and there is just no question: gender-free language is standard.

Submitted by Amelia Carr, Allegheny College
acarr  @  alleg.edu
Date: Tue, 9 Dec 1997 15:38:59 -0500
From: beatricekachuck <bkachuck @ CUNY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject: Re: gender-neutral language
An issue of concern in respect to gender-neutral language: it can obscure
relevant differences in experience, perhaps returning us to male
perspectives - in the case of plural pronouns as well as specific nouns.
For example, 'Employees received big bonuses this year' doesn't tell you
that the women working as clerks got nothing but the usual measly wages.
'They celebrated their victory over colonial rulers' hides the reality that
women who participated in the struggle were driven back to
gender-subordinate roles. 'Parental' and 'family leave' policies masks the
domestic ideology and practices (pay, hours, etc) as well as biological
differences, which translate into serving most poorly or not at all; e.g.,
the current family leave policy in the US (with no pay) means that women
lose income when they take time off from a job to give birth, a huge loss
if their are complications in the pregnancy and birth, care for a sick
child or other family member, or go to school to deal with a child's
problems there.
            beatrice    bkachuck  @  cuny.campus.mci.net
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 17:02:39 -0600
From: Naomi Standen <nstanden @ STAFF.UWSUPER.EDU>
Subject: Maternity leave
This is combining the personal and the professional (and probably political
too) - I hope it's relevant to the list.

Under my state system's interpretation of the Family Leave Act, new
employees receive 22 days of sick leave on arrival, and accrue no more for
18 months. Any faculty member who should have the temerity to have a baby
within that 18 months, and not during the summer, is thus expected to
return to work after a mere 5 weeks. Cover for her time off also comes out
of the hides of her colleagues.

Being European, I think this is barbaric, but my (first) question is this:
how was it that the Family Leave Act rolled maternity leave into sick
leave? Was it the only way to get *any* recognition of maternity leave at

Question 2: I reason that since pregnancy is not an illness, having to use
sick leave to cover maternity constitutes systematic discrimination against
women, and particularly against women faculty, whose responsibilities run
for a semester/quarter, and cannot easily be passed on to others, given the
specialist nature of what most of us do. Is there anything written on this?
Why isn't the AAUW/AAUP fighting on this issue? (Or are they?)

Question 3: It is extremely likely (barring the miracle of my partner
overcoming visa hurdles (don't ask) and getting a job) that I shall be
working till my first contractions, and back at work 5 weeks later. I shall
certainly put in an appearance for my Intro class, and would very much like
to find appropriate readings for them to explore this issue while I have
the one-off opportunity to present them with a living example of the
realities of the question. Any suggestions most welcome - probably off-list
would be best.

In the meantime, if anybody has any advice, experience or suggestions they
would like to offer me privately, I would be very glad to hear them, also

In particular, it seems likely that I shall have to structure my courses
with regular classes until about Week 9, and then have some kind of
research or other project that does not require regular class meetings - in
order to lessen the burden on my colleagues. Has anybody done this kind of
project? What works? What kind of prep do you have to do in the preceding
weeks? This Intro class is taught at 100-level, and many of the students
are likely to be brand-new freshpeople who are taking the course to fufill
a requirement.


Naomi Standen
Assistant Professor of Asian History        | UW-Superior
Department of History, Politics and Society    | Belknap & Catlin, PO Box 2000
University of Wisconsin-Superior        | Superior, WI 54880-4500
nstanden  @  staff.uwsuper.edu            | USA
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 07:20:55 -0400
From: nbenokraitis @ UBMAIL.UBALT.EDU
Subject: Re: Maternity leave
On Tue, 13 Apr 1999, Naomi Standen wrote:

> Under my state system's interpretation of the Family Leave Act, new
> employees receive 22 days of sick leave on arrival, and accrue no more for
> 18 months. Any faculty member who should have the temerity to have a baby
> within that 18 months, and not during the summer, is thus expected to
> return to work after a mere 5 weeks. Cover for her time off also comes out
> of the hides of her colleagues.

Most employees don't receive sick leave "on arrival." As a result, the
leave is ENTIRELY unpaid. In addition, because many women wok in
part-time, temporary positions, they are excluded from family leave
policies altogether (see, for example, E. Trzcinski, "Family and medical
leave, contingent employment, and flexibility: A feminist critique of the
U.S. approach to work and family policy," Journal of Applied Social
Sciences, vol 18, Fall/Winter, 1994: 71-87).

> Being European, I think this is barbaric, but my (first) question is this:
> how was it that the Family Leave Act rolled maternity leave into sick
> leave? Was it the only way to get *any* recognition of maternity leave at
> all?

"Barbaric" is an understatement. The Family and Medical Leave Act died in
Congress in 1988 because of strong opposition from a variety of
groups--especially small business owners who argued that the results would
be costly (especially economically). Feminists were also divided in
their support of the Act (see, for example, M. Gilbert and N. Benokraitis,
"The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1988: One Step Forward and Two Steps
Back?" Family Perspective, vol 23, March 1989: 57-73). By the time Clinton
signed the Act into law in 1993 it was diluted and covers only about 40
percent of full-time U.S. employees. Even then, there are exclusionary

There are thousands of Internet sites on the FMLA. You might begin by
looking at The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Factsheet,
www.mrsc.org/personnel/fmla/fmlafact.htm, a Bureau of Labor survey at
www.bls.gov/ebs2/sml94.pdf, and two "report cards" on the FMLA:
www.womenconnect.com/info/business/apr1696a_bus.htm and
www.jalmc.org/fmlaprob.htm .

Nijole (Niki) Benokraitis, Professor of Sociology
University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201
Fax: 410-837-6051; Voicemail: 410-837-5294; nbenokraitis  @  ubmail.ubalt.edu
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 08:52:50 -0500
From: Barbara Taylor <btaylor @ COMP.UARK.EDU>
Subject: Re: Maternity leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles you to 12 weeks of leave per year
for qualifying events, and one circumstance in which it can be used is
after the birth or adoption of a child.  The catch is that it does not have
to be paid leave -- it can be all paid, a combination of paid and unpaid,
or all unpaid, if you do not have paid leave to cover it.  Usually both
sick leave and annual leave can be used, but 9-month faculty don't
typically accrue annual leave.

By law, pregnancy and childbirth must be treated as any other temporary
illness or disability, so the rules governing maternity leave can't differ
from those affecting broken bones or pneumonia, etc.  At our institution,
women on maternity leave actually have more options in that they don't have
to exhaust sick leave before using annual leave for the time off after

Barbara G. Taylor       btaylor  @  comp.uark.edu
Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources
University of Arkansas, 222 Administration Building
Fayetteville, AR  72701
(501) 575-2158  (501) 575-6971 FAX

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