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CNN reporter challenges employer's parental leave policy

Most of us in Los Angeles who watch CNN are familiar with Josh Levs for his reporting on a wide variety of topics. Now he is making news of his own. Levs is challenging Time Warner, the news network's parent company, over its policy on parental leave. Levs, whose wife gave birth to the couple's third child this fall, says that the Time Warner policy discriminates against biological fathers. Under Time Warner's policy, they are allowed just two weeks of paid leave, while new mothers, as well as adoptive parents of both genders, are provided 10 weeks off with pay. The same goes for parents whose children are born via a surrogate.

Levs has taken his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also used social media - specifically his Tumblr page - to discuss why he believes the policy discriminates against men who want time to stay home and bond with their child along with the new mother. His case has garnered media attention because of his high profile and because it raises issues about how we as a society value - or don't - the role of fathers in the earliest stages of a child's life.

Levs filed his action using Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender. As one EEOC attorney said, companies tend to assume that new mothers need "caregiving time off," while fathers are often refused the same time off or demoted if they take it.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, men and women are both allowed to take up to 12 weeks of "job protected" leave within one year after the birth or adoption of a child. However, the FMLA does not require that the employee be paid during that leave. Levs says that unpaid time off was not an option financially for his family.

The two paid weeks that Levs was allowed is still more than many U.S. companies offer new fathers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, just 15 percent of American employers provide any paid paternity leave. That's not surprising considering that U.S. employers ranks among the lowest in the world when it comes to the amount of paid maternity leave provided to new mothers. As men increasingly share in the responsibility of caring for their children, the current policies of employers will no doubt continue to be challenged.

The New York Times, "Standing Up for the Rights of New Fathers" Tara Siegel Bernard, Nov. 08, 2013

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