Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Runge on Redefining Leave From Work

Runge-1Robin Runge (North Dakota School of Law) just had an article published in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy.

Here's the cite: Redefining Leave From Work, 19 GEO. J. ON POVERTY L. & POL’Y 445 (2012) (Westlaw Subscription required).

From the Introduction:

The concept of leave from work in the United States has been determined by a collection of social and cultural factors. Workplaces are manifestations of social and cultural beliefs about how work is done, what exceptions or modifications to those norms are acceptable, and how family life is to be conducted. Similarly, the justifiable reasons for taking leave and the qualifications necessary to access leave from work reinforce societal values regarding work and family.

The current leave-from-work laws and policies do not incorporate the work-life and non-work-life experiences of low-wage workers. As a result, the majority of low-wage workers do not have meaningful access to leave from work, and when they do, the leave is underutilized. In this way, the work and family lives of low income workers generally, and low-wage working women in particular, are devalued by effectively denying their existence in the workplace.

Although there has been extensive analysis of how to remedy work-family conflict and workplace discrimination against women as caregivers, there has been limited examination of the work-life experiences of low-wage workers outside their identity as caregivers. Framing low-income working women's issues as “work-family conflict” may not be appropriate or accurate to describe their experiences. Moreover, the focus on leave from work as a primary method for addressing gender equity without discussing employees' control over their work and family lives has ignored the work experience of many low-wage working women, thus rendering the efficacy of this tool less successful in achieving its goal of gender equity.

This Article contributes to this scholarship by incorporating an analysis of low-wage workers' experience with current leave from work laws and policies. This analysis demonstrates that current leave laws and policies have contributed to social and cultural norms about leave that result in inaccessibility and underutilization of leave from work by low-wage workers. Reasons for this underutilization include the lack of control low-wage workers have over their work and family lives, a lack of financial support or incentive to take leave from work, and the mismatch of the permissible reasons for taking leave from work with the lives of low-wage workers. By integrating the work and family life experiences of low-wage workers into leave from work laws and policies, they may become a more effective tool for addressing gender and class inequity in the workplace.

This is a very timely and important article at the intersection of employment, gender, and poverty law. Check it out!



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