Does maternity leave apply to adoptive mothers or only to mothers actually giving birth?

Human Resource Management homework help

Scenario Summary

Carol Fern has been employed by Bainbridge Borough for 18 years as a tax clerk. The tax clerk position is part of the bargaining unit represented by Local 10 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). When Carol and her husband found out that she was unable to conceive, they decided to adopt a child. The Ferns were notified on April 22 that a 3-month-old baby girl was available and they could adopt her in three days. However, Carol told the adoption agency that she thought it was unfair to leave the company on such short notice because April was a busy tax season. Adoption was delayed until May 2. On April 27, Carol requested two weeks of paid vacation for May 2 to May 17. This request was granted. The day before she was to return from her paid vacation, Carol asked for 6 months of unpaid maternity leave. The request had to be approved by the Bainbridge Borough Council, which rejected the request by a 4-3 vote. However, the council did offer Carol two consecutive 90-day reasonable purpose leaves (amounting to 6 months of leave). On June 1, the following grievance was filed. According to Article X, Section 4.A—Unpaid Leaves, 5. Maternity on page 13 of the final agreement between Bainbridge Borough and Local 10: Maternity leaves not to exceed 6 months shall be granted at the request of an employee. Maternity leaves shall, upon the request of the employee, be extended or renewed for a period not to exceed 6 months. Relief or remedy sought: Granting of the just and deserved leave request. A Potentially Relevant Contract Provision A. Leaves of absence for a limited period without pay—not to exceed 90 days—shall be granted for any reasonable purpose. Extension to be granted with approval of Borough Council.

Your Role/Assignment

The Issue The union claims that the company violated the collective bargaining agreement by denying Carole Fern’s request for maternity leave. Carole Fern is clearly a new mother and is therefore entitled to the leave specified by the contract. The town argues that maternity leave is for mothers of naturally-born infants, not adopted children, and therefore, Carole Fern is not entitled to maternity leave. So, decide which one is correct: Does maternity leave apply to adoptive mothers or only to mothers actually giving birth?

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Key Players

Carol Fern
Tax Clerk
I’ve served as a tax clerk for Bainbridge Borough for 18 years, and I am entitled to the same benefits as other workers in the company. The adoption process is very difficult, and when the opportunity arose for a baby, I needed to act upon adoption quickly. The last few years have been very stressful ones, and now I feel the need for time to adjust to becoming a new mother. I’ve provided many years of excellent service to the company. Why deny me the same benefit given to other new mothers in the company?
Town People
Maternity leave is only for mothers who give birth to babies. Why should companies have to pay for people to sit around at home while the company is left understaffed?
Sally Stevens
CEO of company
First, let’s make it clear that we understand the issue. However, it is important that the union and the arbitrator understand this grievance is not really about Carole Fern personally. The issue from our view is that maternity leave is for mothers of naturally-born infants, not adopted children. The company understands that Ms. Fern has been through a traumatic experience in not being able to conceive. The company also empathizes with Ms. Fern in her desire to have a family and to adopt a child. I would like to refer the union and the arbitrator to Webster’s dictionary defining the adjective maternity as intended for women during pregnancy or confinement. If maternity leave was given to adoptive parents, a woman could adopt a 17-year-old child and receive a year-long leave. This would make for a financial burden to the Borough. Finally, the Borough granted a 6-month reasonable purpose leave, which is appropriate for this situation. The company feels that Ms. Fern has been treated fairly as an employee and is requesting the arbitrator to deny this grievance.
Bob Smith
Union leader
The union contends that there are two reasons for maternity leaves. First, maternity leaves are necessary for the physical health and recovery of the mother. Second, the bond formed between mother and child is an important component of child rearing. The second reason is no less important for adoptions, and thus, adoptive mothers are entitled to maternity leave. I would like to refer the company and the arbitrator to a version of Webster’s dictionary defining the noun maternity as the quality or state of being a mother. Further, the language of the contract does not restrict maternity leaves to women who actually get pregnant, nor is it referred to as childbirth leave. Finally, maternity leave under the contract can get renewed for a total of one year, whereas the reasonable purpose leave has a maximum total of 6 months. Thus, the two are not comparable. We appreciate the Borough’s offer for a reasonable purpose leave. However, this type of leave does not fall under the language in the collective bargaining for a maternity issue. The union feels that Ms. Fern has not been treated fairly, and is asking the arbitrator to rule in favor of the grievant.
You have three areas of focus for this assignment.
1. As an attorney for Bainbridge Borough, develop a case to support the council’s rejection of Carol Fern’s unpaid maternity leave request.
2. As an attorney for AFSCME Local 10, develop an argument to support your client’s contention that the council’s rejection of Carol’s unpaid maternity leave request violated the collective bargaining agreement.
3. As an arbitrator, how would you rule? Why?

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