Limbaugh overstated maternity leave protections; falsely implied comparable leave is unavailable to men


On the October 14 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh overstated the amount of maternity leave that new mothers receive and falsely suggested that men are not entitled to comparable leave. After telling a caller that "women have always had it better than men in a lot of ways," Limbaugh suggested that unlike a man, a woman "can take maternity leave of nine or 12 months or whatever, come back to the job that she's got." But in fact, federal law allows employees of companies with at least 50 employees to take only up to three months of unpaid leave without the possibility of being fired. The law applies equally to men and women.

Signed by President Clinton in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees of companies to take 12 weeks of protected, unpaid family or medical leave in any twelve-month period. The FMLA permits workers to use any amount of this leave "[b]ecause of the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter"; or "[b]ecause of the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care." There are no other federal guarantees of protected parental leave -- paid or unpaid.

According to a 2005 study by the National Partnership for Women & Families, "Eight states ... and the District of Columbia provide [PDF, page 16] new parents [employed in the private sector] with job-protected leave that is greater than the 12 weeks granted in the federal FMLA." In addition, "Five states ... plus the District of Columbia provide [PDF, page 15] additional job protection for new parents who work for businesses with fewer than 50 employees."

And as The Washington Post noted in a May 8 article, a Society for Human Resource Management study found that only 39 percent of 454 surveyed companies offered any family leave benefits beyond the requirements of the FMLA, and only 28 percent offered benefits that extended beyond state requirements.

From the October 14 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

CALLER: That's why one of the earliest of those things was equal pay for equal work. Because it's all about equality. We want to be equal with men. We want to get paid the same. We want to be respected the same if you choose to be a wife. It's also about choice for men. To be OK to be a homemaking father.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, but see, what you fail to realize is that women have always had it better than men in a lot of ways.

CALLER: Excuse me?

LIMBAUGH: Well, wait a sec. Wait a sec. Wait a sec. Now hear me out on this. I will grant you the equal pay for equal work had to have something done about it. There's no question. There was some inequities that were out there. But the feminists of yore are still the feminists of today, and they're feeling like the movement has failed. They're feeling like their movement has not succeeded because so many women are abandoning the original concepts and making the choice to stay home. And making the choice to have a baby or two. And making the choice to have their world center around their relationship. That was a no-no back then. And that's why so many women foreclose it. That's why we have daycare centers in offices. That's why we have all the bastardizations of human nature. That's why daycare centers raising -- you know, having your kids raised by other people. But my comment about women having it a little easier -- even today -- if a man puts on his résumé, after working here five years I may want to go home and raise the kids for a couple of years, he's never going to get hired. A woman can take that choice. She can take maternity leave of nine or 12 months or whatever, come back to the job that she's got. She can choose to leave the job and then come back to it five or 10 years later, after motherhood. Father can't do that. Man can't do that. You've got far more options than men do in the workplace. And you always have had, with truth be known.

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