Pregnancy is a medical condition that requires women to take time off either to deal with the pregnancy itself and potential complications, to recover from child birthing, or bond with a child, which often requires far more than a just the few weeks that many female adjuncts may have in accumulated sick leave. It is not an illness, like a cold, nor a disability like throwing out your back. It is a temporary disability specific to women and needs to be treated as such.
To this end, California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, has introduced CFT-sponsored AB 500, a bill which would mandate a minimum of six weeks paid maternity leave for school and community college employees required to be absent due to “pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, and recovery from those conditions.”
According to the California Legislative Council Digest, under present law, the state allows for the governing board of a school or community college to provide for a female employee “a leave of absence from duty as it deems appropriate,” and the rules and regulations that they adopt do not have to provide “pay.” Presently, some districts allow for a faculty member or classified employee to take, after their sick leave is used up, either disability leave, or maternity leave paid at a lesser percentage of the worker’s full salary.
AB 500 specifically states that for a minimum of six weeks, “the leave of absence shall be with full pay. The paid leave may begin before and continue after childbirth if the employee is actually disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.”
While the passage of this bill would provide a clear benefit to the female employees of both schools and community colleges, it would be a particular godsend to female part-time community college faculty.
The Los Rios Community College District, which comprises four colleges in the Sacramento area, presently offers adjuncts just one day of maternity leave. Any another paid leave must be taken from whatever sick leave the adjunct has accumulated. After that, a part-timer can use up to 12 weeks of parental leave, but at just 50 percent of an already meager salary. AB 500 would allow these adjuncts, along with other female school and community college employees, to take the minimum six weeks of maternity leave first before having to draw on their sick leave or parental leave.
As it is now, many female part-timers find themselves attempting to schedule their family planning and pregnancies around the academic calendar, which is inconvenient at best. For those part-timers bearing children during the academic year, the financial hit can be severe. Some female adjuncts have felt the need to, when possible, conceal their condition from their employers for fear of losing an assignment, or being taken out of the school’s teaching pool altogether.
In fact, women adjuncts leaving the profession altogether after childbirth is not an uncommon occurrence. Other women, despite the desire to have children, will place economic security and career first, and forego having children altogether.
AB 500, if passed, can allow for female part-time faculty and their families to more reasonably deal with family planning, make them financially stronger, protect them professionally, and keep them in the profession. Again, pregnancy is not an illness, nor a disability—it also shouldn’t be a career impediment.