Texas mother deprived of maternity leave after giving birth to stillborn baby

Stephen Nartey July 24, 2023
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Elena Andres, a staff of Austin Public Health, reeled in shock at the news that she will not be able to enjoy an eight-week paid parental leave after she gave birth to a stillborn baby. She learned about her canceled leave after she informed her employers she would want to take her parental leave a bit earlier.

It is the company’s policy to offer eight weeks of paid parental leave to staff after the delivery or adoption of a child. Employees are also entitled to four weeks of unpaid parental leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Andres only learned later that this policy does not cover parents who give birth to stillborn babies or lose their child, hence, her shock. What this meant was that the policy only catered for bonding with newborns and not for healing when one loses their baby. She said the revelation felt like a slap in the face, according to the Texas Tribune.

She recalled that when she switched careers to the Austin Public Health Department six years ago, she felt her career aspirations had been met. The job offered better remuneration, incentives and provided the space for professional growth. When she gave birth to her son, she did not have issues with her Human Resources department. She only complied with the laid down protocols when she discovered she was pregnant again last year.

Along with her preparation for delivery including decorating the baby’s room, and selecting a name for the child, Andres notified her department to offset any surprises. She was keen about keeping them in the loop so that she doesn’t pile pressure on her co-workers or negatively impact any policy being worked on.

All was going according to plan until she and her husband contracted food poisoning. She threw up so much that she ended up in the emergency ward. After several labs, doctors reassured her the baby was doing fine. The next day however she noticed the baby was no longer kicking. By the time Andres and her husband got to the hospital, the baby had been declared dead. Doctors spent 15 hours assisting her to deliver the baby.

When she emailed her Human Resources department, she was told her parental leave had been canceled. She was informed she could get a doctor’s note to confirm her experience to access the company FMLA which is however not paid for. Andres is not the only staff at Austin Public Health to have encountered such an experience. An employee who lost a child soon after birth was also denied her paid parental leave. After Andres’ story broke, the HR department gave her four more weeks of paid time off and she went back to work on July 18.

The Austin Mayor Pro Tem Paige is rallying the city to advocate for parents who lose their babies to enjoy paid parental leave. According to her, institutions should not only be interested in bonding but the health of women as well.

Deputy Communications director for the city of Austin, Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, assured that the authorities will work towards providing the needed support for such mothers who encounter losses and need a safety net for healing.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 24, 2023


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