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Dumbest Reason Ever for Not Supporting Paid Parental Leave

I was browsing the Women’s Policy Inc. site, which is awesome, and ran across an item in the June 16, 2008 issue of The Source that just left me with my mouth hanging open. I can’t find a permalink for this item; follow this link and scroll down to the fifth item, “House Approves Paid Parental Leave for Federal Employees”. What’s under discussion is a bill that

would allow federal employees to be paid for four of the twelve weeks of parental leave to which they are entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (P.L. 103-3). The legislation also would permit federal employees to use up to eight weeks of accrued sick leave for parental leave.

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) is horrorstruck by the untold expense this is going to cost the government.

“I would…ask that federal workers take note of what we do here today. We are not talking about making sure that someone who has a child or adopts a child has the opportunity to take the time off for bonding. We already ensure 12 weeks of that and have for [more than a] decade.” Rep. Issa continued, “[L]et’s look at this from a practical standpoint. You are running a federal department. You have somebody who you need, and every single year, as often happens, they take on a new foster child that they keep for three to five years and they have, let’s say, three foster children. That means that individual will be gone on paid leave over and above their vacation, over and above their 13 days of sick leave a year, they are going to be gone four weeks every year, conceivably for a full 20 years. So, by having not just the birth [of a child]…we can conceivably go so far beyond the $850 million [in Congressional Budget Office] scoring, we could easily end up in the tens of billions of dollars

I am struck dumb by this apocalyptic vision of federal employees with hordes of foster children bankrupting the U.S. government. Here you thought the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a costly enterprise that threatens our economic security, but it turns out it’s the foster children of federal employees combined with the evils of paid parental leave. Who knew?


I am struck dumb by this apocalyptic vision of federal employees with hordes of foster children bankrupting the U.S. government.

  1. speedwell
    June 28, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Oh, horrors. If we let somebody do it, then everyone will want to. Then we won’t have enough kids to go around so everyone can adopt their quota of three to five, which will drive up the having of SEX! and unwed pregnancy! since babies will be regarded as a commodity! OH NOES!
    Sigh. It reminds me of the old joke about the fellow in the restaurant exclaiming, “Waiter, Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!” The waiter grabs the guy’s arm and says, “SShhhhh! Not so loud! Everyone will want one!”

  2. Stephen Pearce
    June 28, 2008 at 6:43 am

    My wife is just starting her year of Maternity leave. 39 weeks of which will be paid and i will start a fortnight of paid paternity on the birth of our child. The UK’s not all bad see (I suspect similar provisions for most of W Europe too).
    I do feel strongly that adequate maternity protection, including reasonanle length of paid maternity is an important right. It is in the UK, automatically unfair to dismisss employees for reasons associated with pregnancy. This means an automatic win in the employment tribunals.
    I don’t understand how you can accrue sick leave? Seems bizzarre, surey you

  3. June 28, 2008 at 8:28 am

    We already ensure 12 weeks of that
    12 whole weeks!! How insanely generous!

  4. philosopherP
    June 28, 2008 at 9:08 am

    In order to be paid for the whole 12 weeks (3 months… yikes… it takes me longer to get a cat settled into the household, say nothing of a foster child!!) — the employee must have acrued the other 8 weeks in sick or vacation time.
    ummm… they could use the sick or vacation time any way they want, so what he’s objecting to is another week paid? Cripes, collectively his staff probably WASTES a week’s worth of pay every day by surfing the internet and sneaking out for long lunches.

  5. postdoc
    June 28, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Granted, it’s a dumb reason. But certainly not the dumbest ever. My personal favorite is this: “Two months paid parental leave would be unfair, because men cannot get it, so the women would get two months more for their PhD and have it easier.”
    (Yes, I know that the “reason” given is not valid, but this guy – responsible for graduate fellowships and leave for grad students – apparently never heard of paternal leave and wished he hadn’t of maternal.)

  6. June 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I have a friend (an academic like me) who turned down a job offer at a large state university because of a fairly insane response to her concerns about parental leave. When she asked about paid parental leave, the university told her – well, you get sick days, so you can just use those!
    Clearly, she should have taken a job with the federal government, adopted three more kids, and gotten on that sweet foster-child gravy train.

  7. June 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Charlotte:
    “Sweet foster-child gravy train.” I laughed for about five minutes. Wheeeee.

  8. Nico
    June 28, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    12 weeks is a pittance. You’d think with the emphasis on healthy families, there’d be something better.
    In canada, we can take a year off, split between two parents, or one parent alone taking that time. We haven’t suffered as a society for it, and companies seem to have adapted well enough.
    I don’t know of anyone who has heaps of kids to get that time, you do need to accrue a certain number of hours worked before qualifying for that parental leave.

  9. deang
    June 29, 2008 at 12:17 am

    It reminds me of Reagan’s convoluted lies about people abusing welfare payments, such carefully thought-out lying. It also reminds me of something my oil company-employed father once told me. He worked mostly in employee relations and in the 80s he said that they were hiring fewer and fewer people with families and more and more young, single people, because they felt people with families would be a financial and time burden. Being a right-winger himself, he thought that made perfect sense, despite having a family himself and ultimately being forced to take early retirement because of it. Attitudes like Issa’s and my fathers are just incomprehensible to me. They have to ignore the way the rest of the world does things to maintain such attitudes.

  10. SuzyQueue
    June 29, 2008 at 10:53 am

    We get family leave here in the US??? I had none for my three children, each were born on a three day weekend and I was back in front of my classes teaching after the ‘holiday.’ My husband lost his job when he had to be gone for several weeks to tend to his ill father. His father died and my husband was the one to make funeral and other end of life arrangements. There may be a promise or requirement of leave but there is no punishment for not following through or incentive for doing what is promised.

  11. Dr. Wu
    June 29, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Darrel Issa is one of the dumbest human beings on the planet, let alone in the Congress.

  12. Comrade Rutherford
    June 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Buncha Communists, wanting to get paid for time that you AREN’T working! Just who do you think you are, making demands like that!
    When the Republican Party finally takes over, declares Martial Law and criminalizes other political parties, all that paid time will come to an end.

  13. ChibiOne
    June 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I think we need to remember how important healthy children, both physically *and mentally*, are to the future of this company. So sorry some corp has to do without (something they consistently and constantly ask of us for them), but it is far more important that things get settled. And I would rather pay for one hundred people who are abusing the system than have one person who needs it have to suffer because of my fear.

  14. momster
    June 30, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Darrell Issa was the driving force behind the Gov. Gray Davis recall. He and his brother were accused of car theft and falsely reporting theft of his vehicle. The three cases were dropped for unknown reasons. This was reported by the San francisco Chronicle June 25, 2003.

  15. June 30, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Oh, don’t forget my favorite part of FMLA: the part where one must be one of >50 employees AND have been employed for at least 12 months.

  16. Julie Stahlhut
    June 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t understand how you can accrue sick leave?
    Easy. Just don’t take it unless you have no choice, and instead come in to work while infected with any cold, flu, or funny-tummy bug that doesn’t actually flatten you out to the point where you can’t get out of bed. That way, not only does your employer get the productivity benefit of a person running a couple of C above normal and zonked out on over-the-counter meds, but your co-workers get to share your experience of coughing, sneezing, throwing up, or any other non-lethal but unpleasant symptom of your contagious illness. Better yet, if your job involves handling food or other consumer goods, your customers can join in too.
    (Rant off. I once worked for a small business that didn’t pay for sick time on either end of a 3-day holiday weekend. As a young single person fresh out of college and in need of money, I dragged myself in to work once with a roaring, hacking cold that I caught on a holiday weekend, and still regret that I didn’t secretly drink out of the company president’s coffee mug.)

  17. June 30, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Yeah, you gotta love the FMLA. Last fall, before my mother went to assisted living and someone had to be with her at home round the clock, my sister looked into FMLA at her job. The paperwork was a nightmare. And in the end, she realized she just couldn’t ask her kids to stop eating for a few weeks while she stopped getting paid. We were extremely fortunate that we were able to cobble together a set of arrangements to care for my mom during that time. This country is so fucked up – the Rethuglicans go on and on about family values, but try to get some paid maternity leave or time off for elder care and oh my god! civilization will collapse! why aren’t you just rich enough to pay to have that taken care of?
    Stephen Pearce in #2, thank you for reminding me just exactly how crazy-sick the U.S. is.

  18. MMOToole
    June 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Ah, but don’t you see, in Issa’s (alleged) mind, no woman with kids should work outside the home, because all of them have husbands who keep them sequestered in their suburban houses and support them adequately on the superb salaries given them by their benevolent bosses.
    And all those women do nothing all day but sit around, kaffeesklatch, supervise the (live-in) maid, and get their hair and nails done. Nothing but parasites on the actual productive members of society. (I hope everyone recognizes this as snark and not the serious opinion of a confirmed knuckle-dragger!)
    Yup. And gasoline is $2/gallon. By his logic, nobody should be allowed vacations, either. And how many weeks a year is Congress out of session?

  19. Hoots_mon
    July 1, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Wow. I’ve never felt the need really to comment before, but man you guys in the US have it bad!!! As a post-doc in the UK, we get 39 days annual leave, 6 months full pay maternity leave, and 6 months half-pay. There is no limit or accrual of sick leave, but usually those going above the national average get a talking to, monitored etc.
    On the flip side there is a lot of resistance to this by some more archaic supervisors, and many will expect their employees to take nowhere near this, but at least its written in your contract that you’re entitled to them so you can force them to let you take them. Still, the attitudes against maternity leave, from what I’ve mostly found to be much older white men (sorry for the generalisation! Just my own personal experience) disgusts me, they can’t see beyond the end of their noses.

  20. OriGuy
    July 21, 2008 at 1:48 am

    To say that Darrell Issa is as dumb as a box of rocks is to malign the rocks.

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