A grievance was filed by Local 10 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) on behalf of Carol Fern. Carol has been an employee of Bainbridge Borough for 18 years as a tax clerk. She was recently denied a request of 6 months unpaid maternity leave for a new born baby she and her husband recently adopted. It is the union’s belief that there has been a clear violation of their contract with Bainbridge Borough. Bainbridge Borough will be required to provide information that upholds their decision. AFSME will also develop an argument that supports Carol’s grievance for violating their collective bargaining agreement. Once all information has been gathered an arbitrator will analyze the evidence and will provide a ruling.
Carol Fern’s Grievance for Unpaid Maternity Leave
Carol Fern’s request for six months of unpaid maternity leave was denied by her employer and council of Bainbridge Borough. As a loyal employee to the company she feels she equally deserves the same maternity leave as mothers who have given birth naturally. Carol is a member of the Local 10 union. Local 10 has filed a grievance in her defense claiming the Bainbridge Borough council has violated their collective bargaining agreement. CEO of the company Sally Stevens has stated “maternity leave is for mothers of naturally-born infants not adopted children”. Sally Stevens feels that Carol has been treated fairly and is requesting that the arbitrator deny the union’s grievance. Council’s Position
In support of the council’s decision to deny Carol’s request for 6 months of unpaid maternity leave, the council examined the final collective bargaining agreement between the employer and the Local 10. Upon review it was determined that based on Article X, section 4. A- Unpaid Leaves, 5. Maternity on page 13 of the final agreement that the denial of the request was clearly not in violation of the collective agreement . Our position is that during the “collective bargaining” both parties came to a mutual agreement in a good faith effort to execute and document conditions of employment that would affect our employees. This agreement included Article x section 3. A. Although, Carol has just adopted an infant, Carol did not give birth and would not be covered nor entitled to maternity leave. However, the council in good faith offered her two consecutive 90 day reasonable purpose leaves giving Carol 6 months of leave.
This action would be in compliance with a potential relevant contract provision A. which reads “Leaves of absence for limited period without pay not to exceed 90 days for any reasonable purpose extensions is to be granted with approval of the Borough council.” Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Carol was eligible for only 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period ( State Family and Medical Leave Laws, 2014). Bainbridge Borough graciously agreed during the collective bargaining agreement to increase the amount of unpaid leave employees are eligible for in comparison to the time FMLA would provide. The definition of maternity applies to women who are pregnant or confined. In closing maternity benefits should only apply to females who have conceived and got pregnant (The New York Times, 1983). We therefore request that the grievance is dismissed in favor of Bainbridge Borough. Local 10 Position
It is the Local 10’s position that Bainbridge Borough violated the collective bargaining agreement by denying Carol Fern maternity leave. As clearly stated in Article X, section 4.A-Unapid Leaves, 5. Maternity on page 13 of the final agreement between the council and the Local 10 upon the request of the employee she is granted maternity leave not to exceed more than 6 months and can be extended or renewed not to exceed 6 months. Although, the council did grant reasonable purpose leave we feel this does not fall under the collective agreement for maternity leave. We feel Carol is being discriminated for her disability in not being able to conceive and bear a child through natural birth (Budd, 2013).
Maternity leave provides mothers up to one year duration of coverage to child-rearing. Therefore, maternity leave should also apply to adoptive parents as infants require the same care and responsibility regardless if they were adopted or born and raised by their natural mother (The New York Times, 1983). Many states such as California and Connecticut prohibit this type of discrimination against pregnancy ( State Family and Medical Leave Laws, 2014). The Family Medical Leave Act does provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. State and bargaining agreements have the flexibility to increase their coverage (Titus, 2014). Therefore, we feel it is in the best interest of the council to grant Carol Fern’s request for maternity leave effective immediately.
As arbitrator of the hearing and based on the information presented from both parties several issues needed to be further analyzed before a final decision could be determined. First, did the collective agreement language clearly define the definition of maternity? Second, could the word maternity apply to adoptive mothers? Lastly, was Carol Fern’s discriminatory rights violated for her disability in not being able to get pregnant and have a child through natural birth. It is my ruling that the collective bargaining agreement between Local 10 and the Council did not clearly define maternity and to who was eligible for its benefits. It is the ruling that maternity leave should apply to mothers who have adopted and should receive the same benefit equal to women who have given birth naturally. It is true that the word “maternity” is intended for women who go through pregnancy but the intent of “maternity leave” not only applies to women who get pregnant it also provides mothers the ability to bond with their children no matter if they are adopted or born and raised by their natural mother.
It is our decision that Carol Fern’s discriminatory rights have not been violated because the collective bargaining agreement contract did not clearly define maternity leave. Had maternity leave been clearly defined Bainbridge Borough would have been in direct violation of the “American with Disabilities Act” as stated in Title 1: Employment prohibits covered employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in all employment-related activities, including hiring, pay, and benefits (Employment Laws: Disability , 2014). It is our ruling that Carol Fern is granted maternity leave effective immediately unpaid leave for reasonable purpose leave should be counted as maternity leave.