Elena Andres, an Austin Public Health employee, was stunned to learn that she would be unable to take an eight-week paid parental leave after giving birth to a stillborn baby. She found out about her canceled leave after informing her bosses that she would like to take her parental leave early.
The company’s policy is to provide employees with eight weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employees are also entitled to four weeks of unpaid parental leave.
Andres only discovered afterwards that this policy does not cover parents who have stillborn kids or lose their child, explaining her surprise. This meant that the policy solely addressed bonding with babies and not healing after a baby is lost. According to the Texas Tribune, she described the news as a “slap in the face.”
She remembers feeling satisfied with her job path when she went to the Austin Public Health Department six years ago. The employment gave better salary, incentives, and opportunities for professional development. She had no problems with her Human Resources department when she gave birth to her kid. When she found out she was pregnant again last year, she merely followed the rules.
Andres notified her department as part of her preparation for delivery, which included decorating the baby’s room and choosing a name for the infant. She was determined to keep them informed so that she did not put more strain on her coworkers or have a detrimental impact on any policy being developed.
Everything was going swimmingly until she and her husband got food illness. She vomited so much that she had to be sent to the emergency room. Doctors reassured her that the baby was alright after multiple lab tests. The following day, she found the baby was no longer kicking. The baby had died by the time Andres and her husband arrived at the hospital. Doctors assisted her in giving birth for 15 hours.
Her parental leave had been canceled when she emailed her Human Resources department. She was told she could seek a doctor’s note to validate her experience in order to use the company’s FMLA, which is not paid for. Andres is not the only employee at Austin Public Health who has had a similar experience. An employee who died shortly after giving birth was also denied paid parental leave. After hearing about Andres’ tale, the HR department extended her leave by four weeks, and she returned to work on July 18.
Austin Mayor Pro Tem Paige is rallying the community to campaign for paid parental leave for parents who lose their newborns. Institutions, she believes, should be concerned not only with bonding but also with the health of women.
Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Deputy Communications Director for the City of Austin, guaranteed that the authorities will try to provide the necessary support for such women who suffer losses and require a safety net for healing.