On August 5, 2015, Netflix announced a bold new policy of unlimited paid leave for up to one year off for new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents. In her blog, Tawni Cranz, the company’s Chief Talent Officer, wrote, “Each employee gets to figure out what’s best for them and their family, and then works with their managers for coverage during their absences”. This news was met with both adoration and skepticism, or downright outrage if you are talking about Carly Fiorina. In any case, we need to cut through the rhetoric and examine a loophole that Ms. Cranz failed to mention.
It turns out that “each employee” is an exaggeration. The new policy does not cover hourly and part-time workers. It’s mostly people who pack DVDs and ship them to customers. When Huffington Post Emily Peck asked Anne Marie Squeo why the disparity, Ms. Squeo replied that “Streaming and DVD are totally separate parts of our business with different staff, support, etc. We report revenue, net income, etc. separately for each quarterly”. That is an inadequate explanation. Why not report revenues and net income and also make paid family leave uniform policy for all the employees? Maybe it has to do with American culture that is hard to understand.
People in America are not equal. If you work at Microsoft, Twitter, Instagram, Google or another technical company, you are getting paid well and enjoy terrific benefits, such as long vacations and company perks. If you are working for McDonalds, on the other hand, you would be lucky to be able to stay home for a day if you have the flu. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a government mandate for sick and family leave with pay. We don’t need statistics to know that very few people actually get paid family leave, and those who do get it, sometimes are reluctant to use it. We are conditioned to work hard, long hours, take as little time off as possible or face negative consequences. And those of us who are more desperate than others for work and paycheck, are in a much more vulnerable situation.
So, if you are a tech worker or a salaried manager at Netflix, congratulations. You are now part of the rest of the civilized world, where people take these things for granted. On the other hand, if your job perk is a bright red T-shirt with the company logo, and you have to work mostly standing up, toughen up and don’t complain. The law doesn’t protect you, because FMLA only covers some employees, and it explicitly mandates unpaid leave for 12 weeks. The only other option remains to become politically active and demand what is right for mothers, fathers, children, families and ultimately society. Attachment parenting directly depends on the position that the Federal government takes. This year democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate reintroduced Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. It would make these 12 weeks partially paid, and will cover all workers without any strings attached. While this is a modest step, it goes in the right direction. Recently, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders endorsed this proposal. It is time for people to make their voices heard and be brave.