Dear Governor Brown,
This is my first time writing to any form of government. While I’ve always had my views on various issues in our local and federal government, never before have I felt compelled to write and express concern. While I am well aware that if any changes are ever made, they will have no benefit to myself at this point; I feel that for women everywhere in the state of Oregon, something needs to be done. My issue is the lack of laws regarding paid maternity leave in the state of Oregon.
Early this year my husband and I made the big decision to start a family. Swept up in the thoughts of tiny feet, maternity leave never even crossed my mind. When I did get pregnant, I started looking into what kind of leave I would get. I work for a very small company, with less than 20 employees. While very generous with their standard PTO, they offer very little for maternity leave; just two paid weeks. I do feel that my company is unique because they offer paternity leave as well; but whether you’re the one giving birth, or it’s your partner who’s giving birth, it’s still the same two weeks. I started doing the math and quickly realized that with the PTO and sick time I had already used four months into the year, and the two weeks maternity leave my company offers, I would only be allowed to take three weeks off from work. I approached my boss about this, and asked if maybe I could borrow from the three weeks PTO I would get in 2017, so that I could take more time off. I also stated that paid or not, I would need more than three weeks off. I was then informed that due to the size of our company, FMLA doesn’t apply, and I am not allowed to receive unpaid time off. I was told that with my remaining PTO from 2016, all of my PTO from 2017, the two weeks maternity leave, and the four paid holidays that fall into that time period, assuming I used X amount of hours for appointments, I could take a maximum of seven weeks off work. So I will get no PTO in 2017, and still have very little time to recover from childbirth, and adjust to becoming a mother.
I soon learned that we would be welcoming not just one baby, but two; we’re expecting twins. This meant a couple of things for me; more appointments, and recovering from giving birth twice. I’m now half way through my pregnancy, and I am realizing that I’ll be lucky if I get six weeks off. See, with twins, I have to have an ultrasound every time I go to the doctor. They have to make sure that both babies have a heartbeat, and the only way to do this is by having an ultrasound. So each time I have a doctor appointment, I have to schedule at least three hours off from work. I need two hours for the appointment, and an hour to travel to and from work and my doctor’s office. So far I’ve taken 12 hours off for appointments, and have another 12 hours scheduled off for my appointments through October; there will be more appointments, which increase in frequency the further along in my pregnancy I get. Each appointment takes away from the time I’m allowed to take off to recover from childbirth. Don’t even get me started on the costs related to prenatal care and childbirth, even with decent insurance. When all is said and done, my husband and I will be looking at around $7,000 in medical expenses from having our little girls.
I’ve been fairly involved in the online pregnancy community, and it’s easy to see that this is a nationwide issue. I recently saw something that graded states on how well they take care of new parents, and was surprised to see that Oregon was given a B+. Seeing as there are no state laws regarding paid maternity leave, I’m assuming this is because of the FMLA that allows parents up to 12 weeks of job protection, unpaid. While that’s nice, there are a couple of issues with that law. First of all, how are people expected to continue to support their families, while missing out on 12 weeks of pay? As I’m sure you know, one income households are a rarity these days. Secondly, there are a fairly large number of Oregon residents who are unable to use this leave, because they work for companies with fewer than 25 employees. Oregon is all about small businesses. From restaurants and family owned businesses, to small dental practices and locally owned service companies; there are a large portion of Oregon residents who are employed by smaller companies. So while you’re covered if you work for a larger corporation, you’re not if you’re one of the many people who work for the small businesses that help this state thrive. Beyond that issue, there are no state laws mandating paid maternity leave.
Our entire country is behind on this, as many countries have very generous paid maternity leave laws. While I know it may take some time, if ever, for things to change at the federal level, I feel that Oregon should take a stand, and set an example for the other states and our federal government. All elected officials claim to care about families, especially working families; so why is paid maternity leave still something that is nonexistent in the state of Oregon? I urge you as the governor of Oregon, and as a woman, to stand up for the women in our state, and do something about this issue. Choosing to start a family should not be something that is considered a luxury, or something that a person has to plan a year or more in advance, in order to take any and all time that their employer may or may not offer. Mothers deserve adequate time to recover and bond with their newborns, and they deserve to not worry about their jobs or how they will support their families during that time.
An expectant mother, and native Oregonian