For seven years, I have been the director of office services (this job handles mail, mail clerks, shipping and receiving, etc). During this period our company has grown from 100 employees to over 1,000.
Since my daughter was very little, she has come in to where I work and remained at or near my office, in a secure “non-public” area of the workplace, for two-to-four hours each afternoon.
Until three months ago, when a new person assumed the role of my supervisor, I never had even one problem.
However, within two weeks of this new person beginning as VP of human resources, he has made threats about my daughter in my office on a regular basis in the late afternoon. I have never had any negative feedback from anyone until just now.
Questions: Does the federal government through any mechanism have protections to my rights as a parent, based on a longstanding allowance of my child being at work?
Is it discriminatory to single out a “single-parent,” who is supposed to work 55 to 60 hours a week: to force her to pay a private care giver, when in fact allowing my child to stay near me is not costing them anything?
According to the OSHA rep (visited our building in 1997), I do not work in or near any hazardous equipment, materials or the like, whereby I could have created any potential liability for myself or my employer as it may relate to having a minor-child in the proximity of any accident likely environment.
Can I execute a parental leave privilege if forced to get a daycare-giver?
Signed “Caring Parent”
Dear Caring Parent:
As a mother, who was working (and single at one point) when my son was growing up, I can appreciate your frustration and concern about not being allowed to keep your child at the office. You did not indicate in which state you reside, so in terms of “parental leave” I would be unable to review your specific state laws to see how this subject is addressed and I am unfamiliar with any type of “parental leave” unless it comes under the nature of the Family Medical Leave Act (for example). In the case of FMLA, your situation, as you describe it, would not be a qualifying event for parental leave.
In terms of whether your company would be obligated to allow you to continue this practice, since you did so without objection in the past, this could be the case, IF you had a written contract with your company that made this practice a term of the contract. There are no federal regulations that requires an employer to continue a practice which is not in itself a federal regulation or law.
As far as being discriminated against because as a single parent you would be required to pay for child care, discrimination would only be an appropriate charge if other (non-single) parents were treated in a more favorable light; e.g., they are being paid for child care and you are not.
- In addition, companies are allowed to make policies and to change policies, benefits, rules and regulations (unless they are illegal and/or discriminatory in nature). This means that your company is not under an obligation to continue the practice of allowing your child to come to your office.
- What then are your options if you have no legal recourse? Attempt to work out a deal with your “new supervisor.” Here is my recommended approach:
- Set up an appointment with your supervisor to discuss this issue. Go to your meeting prepared and remain calm and very matter-of-fact. (This is probably not personal, so do not take it as a personal affront to you as a hard working single mother.)
- Explain to him the situation, starting with how much you have appreciated the company allowing you to do this for so many years.
- Express your desire to continue to do a good job for the company which would mean continuing to work the 50-60 hours a week.
- Express your need to ensure that your daughter is well cared for and your long hours do not interfere with the creation and maintenance of a strong family unit with your daughter.
- ASK HIM WHAT HIS CONCERNS ARE regarding allowing your daughter to come to your office after school. LISTEN TO HIM AND LET HIM SHARE EACH OF HIS CONCERNS WITH YOU BEFORE YOU RESPOND TO THEM.
- Otherwise you may find yourself in a defensive posture, rather than a problem solving posture.
- Make notes on each of his concerns so that you can address each of them, one at a time.
- Respond to his concerns with what steps you could take that might prevent the problems that are of concern to him.
- Do not threaten or offer this information with a threatening tone. But if you feel that you would be unable to continue to work the hours because of your child, let him know that this is of concern to you.
- If you are unable to resolve this issue with your new supervisor, you may want to “take it higher.” This can be risky and can backfire so only do it if it is absolutely necessary. I do not believe in bypassing the supervisor unless you have discussed the issue with your supervisor and remain dissatisfied…. and if your discussions were conducted in the right and appropriate manner.
In summary, you have enjoyed a privilege at your workplace; however, it was not, nor has it become, a right. Therefore, you may not be successful in your attempt to continue this practice. However, this should not prevent you from attempting to work something out with your supervisor. If your child is not in danger and is not disruptive to you or those with whom you work, I would hope that your supervisor would work with you on this issue.
Good luck to you and let me know how things go.
Please Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not the intent of Mary Rau-Foster to render legal advice. If legal advice is required, you should seek the services of a competent lawyer.