Friday, June 11, 2004

I have just received a most amazing link (thanks Amy!) of a conversation taking place on a human resources board. This is well worth examining. Here's the question that kicks it off:
We have a male employee that we hired a few months ago to head a department in our company. We have sent him to extensive training and he will be taking a major certification exam that the company paid for next month.

Apparently, last week, at an out of town seminar, he mentioned in dinner conversation to one of his managers that he and his wife were planning on trying to start a family in a few months. He told the manager that, when the child is born, he would quit his job and stay home.

Our company has spent a significant amount of money to invest him, can we approach him and ask what his plans are since he openly volunteered this information? What liability would we face? We would make it clear that his job is still secure, as his performance is satisfactory at the moment. Help!
The replies that follow show a degree of general ignorance and/or arrogance on the part of corporate officials who ought to know better. I have long relied on a paradoxically optimistic/cynical view of workplace rights for fathers: I assume that men and HR departments (generally) know their rights and policies and just choose not to exercise them (because of social expectations, fear of subtle reprisal, etc.). This conversation suggests that everyone may be a little hazy on those rights and policies themselves.

But the evidence suggests that these HR folks may not be outliers. Here's the lead paragraph from a press release touting a study due to hit next week:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 9, 2004) Working class fathers risk pay loss, disciplinary action, and even dismissal when they choose family responsibilities over work, according to a new study on work/life balance in working class families released by the Program on WorkLife Law at American University Washington College of Law.
The sad fact is that men face all sort of societal pressures that drives them from the caregiver role. We sure don't need businesses -- acting illegally or unethically -- to compound the damage.

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