January 26, 2024
While baby apparel maker Kyte Baby drew widespread condemnation for denying a mother’s request to work remotely to care for her baby in a neonatal intensive care unit, the decision was completely lawful, a reality that worker-side advocates say highlights the glaring gaps in workplace protections for new parents.
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Experts said the saga is another example of how the lack of federal protections for new parents forces them to rely on the benevolence of their employers for the time off that growing families need. And worker-side advocates said many businesses aren’t interested in going beyond the letter of the law, necessitating congressional action.
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Aniko R. Schwarcz, an attorney with plaintiff-side firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC who directs its civil rights and employment case development, said these requirements mean a huge chunk of the country isn’t covered.
Among those excluded are workers like Hughes, as well as some part-time employees, gig workers and independent contractors.
“There are so many people like [Hughes] who are carved out from federal protections,” she said. “And wherever the law draws the line, there are businesses that are always going to do the bare minimum.”
While some workers can turn to state law for support that the federal government does not offer, most cannot.