Impossible Choice: America’s Paid Leave Crisis
Al Jazeera (2020)
The US and Papua New Guinea are the only two countries in the world that fail to guarantee both sick and family leave (aka maternity or parental leave) for all their workers. Although this documentary was made just prior to the global coronavirus outbreak, it lays out clearly 1) the stark brutality of employment policies that force people to work when they or a family member is sick and 2) the significant role these policies play in spreading contagious infections – as millions of Americans show up at work with early symptoms of COVID-20.
The only good news in the film is the Family Leave and Medical Insurance Act Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura (Dem Ct) introduced in 2019. The bill would guarantee US workers 12 weeks of combined sick and family leave. Under DeLaua’s proposal, the government, rather than the employer, would manage the leave benefits, funded via joint employer/employee payroll deductions.
The film also features the heart breaking stories of a physical therapist whose 2 1/2 month old baby died at a dodgy daycare center she failed to qualify for unpaid maternity leave; a teacher who was unlawfully fired when she used unpaid FMLA* leave to care for a three-year-old son undergoing cancer chemotherapy; and a lactation coach forced to go on welfare when her husband died, leaving her the sole provider and care of a newborn baby.
*The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers of over 15 employees to allow all workers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.