A Better Balance
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A Better Balance

New York Paid Family Leave Saved My Job — Parents Everywhere Deserve the Same Protections

By: Samantha K., A Better Balance Community Advocate

I work for a large grocery store chain on Long Island, and I am a mom. My son is 10-years-old and has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), among other health conditions. Because of the level of medical care he requires, we needed to move him into a residential treatment facility more than two hours away from our home to get him the help he needed.

As a full-time employee whose family is dependent on my paycheck, I was only able to visit with my son on weekends, and I struggled to pick him up and provide care for him on the days he was able to come back home. Keeping up with his treatments was a particular challenge when he was back home with us and I needed to work.

When I tried to take off work to care for my son, my employer told me I was not allowed to and that I could be written up or even fired if I didn’t show up to work. My manager gave me an especially hard time about taking off when my son was home for the holidays, which are always a difficult time to take off when you work in a grocery store. But I had no choice, as there was no one else available to provide the care my son required.

It came as a tremendous relief when I learned that I could apply for New York’s Paid Family Leave program. I was approved by my company’s Human Resources department to take six days of paid family leave per month, as needed, which was the ideal arrangement for me because there was no reason I needed to stop working for a continuous period of time.

When my manager first found out that I planned to take New York Paid Family Leave during a holiday week, he told me I wasn’t allowed to, and I felt like my job was in jeopardy. But I also knew the law — which clearly says that employees have the right to take paid family leave when they need it, and not when employers think it’s convenient — was on my side. I reached out to A Better Balance’s free and confidential legal helpline and received further assurance that my manager couldn’t prevent me from taking New York Paid Family Leave, and that legally, my job was protected while on New York Paid Family Leave. With this information from A Better Balance, and the support of my union, I felt confident continuing to assert my rights.

In the end, I was able to take the leave I needed to care for my son, and not lose my job. My manager backed off when he realized that he couldn’t interfere with my legal rights, even during a holiday week. Without New York Paid Family Leave, I would have lost my job for sure.

“In the end, I was able to take the leave I needed to care for my son, and not lose my job. My manager backed off when he realized that he couldn’t interfere with my legal rights, even during a holiday week. Without New York Paid Family Leave, I would have lost my job for sure.”

Parents and families across the country deserve the same protections that I have here in New York. I feel lucky that I have access to New York Paid Family Leave, but being able to take time off to care for your child, yourself, or a seriously ill loved one without losing your job or income shouldn’t be a matter of luck or location — it should be a national legal right. Congress cannot wait a moment longer and must pass a federal paid family and medical leave law this year that gives parents and other caregivers everywhere in the U.S. the right to paid, job-protected time off to care for their loved ones when they need it most.

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