One of the recurring lessons of working in the social justice universe is how often doing what is right is also what is best for a corporation, government, or organization. Paid family leave is one of those lessons. The New York Times recently celebrated Walmart, Starbucks and others offering more comprehensive family and medical leave policies. This includes paid leave for hourly workers — a perk once reserved for salaried staff — and expanded options, including paternity leave and leave to care for ill family members. These benefits, says the Times, are the result of low unemployment. Companies seeking to recruit and retain workers need more family-friendly policies.
Our board of directors and staff recently worked together to modernize the organization’s leave policy and align it with our mission and the realities of today’s work force. The ACLU of Ohio now offers 12 weeks paid leave to any full-time employee for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee; for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care; to care for an immediate family member or another person for whom the employee is the crucial caregiver; or for the employee’s own serious health condition.
The United States is the only industrialized nation not to require paid parental leave. According to the New York Times, “16 percent of people employed in the last two years said they needed to take leave but were unable to. They were more likely to be low earners, and also more likely to be women, black, Hispanic or without a college degree.”
This policy aligns with the values of our organization, which include equity and fairness in the workplace. Paid leave alleviates discriminatory effects on employees needing leave and who lack personal or financial support networks. Employees will no longer have to make difficult choices between taking family or medical leave, and working to support themselves and their families.
Additionally, paid leave will assist the ACLU of Ohio’s recruiting and retention efforts, showing that the ACLU values work-life balance, supports employees, and does not penalize staff members simply for having the inevitable challenges all families face from time to time. We believe that the benefits of promoting a diverse, equitable workplace outweigh the potential economic and logistical challenges of paid leave.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
It is easy for an organization like the ACLU of Ohio to stand on the sidelines and tell governments and corporations to enact equitable, inclusive policies. It is much harder to look inward and find the ways we can live our mission. We will always strive to advance our mission through our own internal policies, and in the work we do out in the world.