Thursday, March 22, 2012

Faculty, fatherhood go hand-in-hand

PLU professors receive paternity, maternity leave in lieu of paid vacation

By Nick Neely, News Reporter

The only difference between paternity and maternity leave at Pacific Lutheran University is the letter it starts with.

Paternity leave falls under the Federal Medical Leave Act passed by Congress in 1993, employment specialist Laura Fuhrman said. This act protects all workers’ jobs during an unpaid paternity leave.

PLU, however pays for its faculty’s paternity leave, Fuhrman said.

“I’d say we’re more generous,” Human Resources Director Teri Philips said.

Philips said PLU employees are split into three categories: professors or faculty, staff and administration. Staff and administration receive paid vacation days, which they can use during their maternity or paternity leave to receive pay.

Faculty members are not given paid vacation days and thus cannot use this strategy to be paid for their leave.

“You can’t have a faculty member take a two-week vacation to Hawaii in the middle of the semester … that’s the nature of the work they do,” Philips said.

Federal law requires 480 working hours leave for new fathers. This usually equates to a term of 12 weeks. Fuhrman said maternity leave lasts for the same amount of time.

Employees do not have to take off all 480 hours at once. This enables them to ease back in to working by spending fewer paternity leave hours each consecutive week, Fuhrman said.

Philips said when a faculty member takes leave, it makes a more notable absence to students.

“Generally, what students would see is a full replacement for the full semester,” Fuhrman said.

When a faculty member applies for paternity leave, he can also request it be extended. That faculty member will likely not teach classes but still remain on campus to carry out other duties, Philips said.

Fuhrman said these duties include scholarly research, committee work and advising.

To be eligible for paternity leave, the father needs to have worked at his current place of employment for one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours within that year. This equates to just more than 20 hours a week, Fuhrman said.

“There’s a fair number of people who take it [paternity leave],” Fuhrman said.

Under the FMLA, a form of paternity leave is also offered to employees who adopt a child. This kind of leave is called “child bonding leave” and has the same guidelines, Fuhrman said.

Student employees’ jobs are not protected by the FMLA act.

In the case a student wants time off work for maternity or paternity reasons, Philips said, “I would encourage students to work with their individual supervisors to see if something could be worked out.”

For more information on paternity, maternity and child bonding leave, visit PLU’s Human Resources website or stop by the Human Resources office.