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Non Video Question

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Aaron CadieuxNon Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 3:45:21 pm

Hey guys,

I am a multimedia specialist and am in a bit of a bind as to what to do about family leave time. I know this isn't really a video question, but I figure since I am in the same line of work as you guys, you might let it slide and lend me some advice.

My wife and I are expecting our first child at the end of November. I work in a state where companies that have over 50 workers are required by state law to offer 13 weeks fully paid maternity/paternity time to employees. The law is not sex-specific, so if I so choose, I can take 13 weeks fully paid of paternity time. I know a father taking 13 weeks is very non-traditional. I handle all of the video/tv, radio and print for this company, and I'm the only person here that does what I do. If I take any time with this baby, my job will have to be outsourced. Right now I am thinking about taking 5 weeks, and having the rest of the 13 weeks be some sort of flexible/work from home arrangement (my job could very easily be done from my home office, especially since I run my own business doing the same kind of work). No matter what, I know that taking anything more than a couple of weeks is going to go over like a lead balloon. However, the company I work for has a 2 weeks maximum vacation time policy. No matter how long you've been with the company, you only get two weeks vacation and no sick time. If you get sick, you dip into your vacation, or take a day with out pay. So part of me is thinking that I should take as much time as I can get, because otherwise, my days off are rare.

What would you guys do in this situation?



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Jeremy DoyleRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 4:27:07 pm

If I had the opportunity to take 13 weeks paid time off when I had my kids, I would have jumped at the chance. As it was, my wife did take leave of 6 weeks unpaid. I would have too, if we could have afforded it.

Jobs come and go, but your family does not. Besides it would be illegal for the company you work for to fire you. Not saying they won't come up with another excuse, but paternity leave won't be the cause.

Jeremy Doyle

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Richard HerdRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 5:21:17 pm

I was in a similar position: a multimedia specialist and my wife was pregnant. I took off 2 weeks, using vacation because I was worried about what the company would think. My wife got 6 weeks unpaid leave. I took 2 more weeks at Christmas. Then when my vacation reset, I took 2 weeks in April. When I got back from vacation, they laid me off. I got 6 months severance and COBRA payments, while I was a stay at home dad (twin daughters). Now I teach and freelance. Knowing what I know now, and having experienced what I experienced, I would definitely take the entire 13 weeks of paid family leave, and if my boss and company didn't like it, then I might try to find other work during those 13 weeks.

PS What state is that?

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Aaron CadieuxRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 5:25:30 pm

The tiny corrupt state of RI believe it or not. I was stunned when I found out the state family leave laws.

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Richard HerdRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 5:26:03 pm

ok...moving there as soon as possible. :)

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Scott SheriffRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 6:08:27 pm

The following isn't a comment on the law, or your right to do this, or personal priorities. It's strictly an opinion on if this is a good idea based on how the real world works.
Maybe you're really lucky and you work for the most tolerant company on the planet, but...job performance often comes down to optics, especially in a market where there are thousands with identical skills looking for work.
So in a down economy, where it's an employers market this sounds like a real 'career move' and a way to get more time off than you planned. The law aside, you run a high risk of damaging your working relationship with your employer and fellow employees. And it doesn't matter what the law says, companies will find a way to get rid of those perceived as non-team players, replacing them with employees that see their job as their number one priority. With media unemployment running about five times the national stats, these committed employees are not hard to find. Also after costing the company a lot of money and inconvenience, don't expect to be put on any pet projects, offered a promotion or raise anytime soon. Those 13 weeks off just ate up the budget for your raise, if not more.
You're in even worse shape if there has been expectant fathers in your company that didn't do this, or your supervisor is someone without children. They will smile and wish you well, and as soon as you leave the room they will question your commitment to the company. This is similar to folks that conveniently manage to take all of their paid sick days. If you think this stuff goes unnoticed by management at raise and promotion time, your living in a dream world.
Or perhaps you work for the best company in the world, and all will be well. It is really up to you to decide if risking your paycheck in a time of record unemployment is worth the time off.

Scott Sheriff
SST Digital Media
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production

The Affordable Camera Dolly is your just right solution!

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

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Aaron CadieuxRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 6:32:07 pm


I hear you on this. I think long-term when it comes to this stuff. I hope to not rock the boat with any of this. I would definitely be open to a work from home arrangement. When it's all said and done, it is highly unlikely that I would take an entire 13 weeks off. I think that's overkill, especially for a dad. I am still interested in taking 5 weeks.

Has anyone out there approached paternity leave in a different way?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:45:53 pm

I took some paternity leave with the birth of each of my two sons, as well as the arrival of my adopted Chinese daughter.

I agree with Scott a lot and respect his view, he's not "wrong" in his assessment of some management feelings. However, I would rather take the time and risk the damage to the career, than put my wife and child second to some manager's arbitrary notion of what commitment means. Commitment means you do whatever it takes for the ones you love. The company does not love you. Your wife loves you. Your kids grow to love you. If you're there for them. Sure you tell yourself you're putting in the hard hours now for their future security later. Don't forget to be around for them in the interim, though, or the money is for nothing, a donation from some stranger that never raised them or knew them. An employer that would defy federal law as well as human decency to keep you chained to a desk under these circumstances is telling you exactly what you're worth to them, and what kind of treatment you can expect from them. Why are they worth more consideration than your family?

Now, in my case, I think I took off four weeks for the first kid, and two for the next two, transitioning back thru another week of half-days before I was full-time again. In all three cases I had the luxury of having relatives in town who were part of the support system, my mother in law in particular moved in for a week to help out in shifts along with me. See, some women bounce out of labor in a day or two, but it takes a little longer to recover from an emergency c-section than you might guess from watching "Prometheus". Its major surgery and recovery is painful and slow. If I didn't have the support of the inlaws that first time out, I would have taken the full allowed number of days.

Then again, (engage commercial mode) one of the percs of my union job was I had full protected Family Leave time, but I also could tap into over a hundred days's worth of accrued sick time and then personal leave of absence time after that... PLUS, I had contributed some hours to a sick-leave time bank and so... well, add it all up and I could have taken a little over a year off without threat of losing my job, so, God bless unions....(end commercial mode)

Now, if you work for Dickensian monsters you can't afford to sue, and truly feel you'll get shafted for taking what's yours by legal right, take a shorter break like 2 weeks and then half-days or flex-time of every other day or something. Stress in the negotiations that you can still meet the deadlines though by taking unconventional flex hours or telecommuting for part of it. If the bottom line is the delivery time of the work, they shouldn't care how it gets done, long as it gets done and done well. And, you know, you had about eight months to plan for the day, that has to be more than enough time to schedule some projects around or to train up a temporary assistant/ fill-in person to cover for you.

I respect Scott's opinion, as I said but... If these employers are the type that can't empathize over a baby's birth, and would punish you for the inconvenience of that, you're working for the wrong people, and they're not going to be successful long-term anyhow, because if they can't relate to human employee needs, they can't relate to human CUSTOMER needs either. Imagine if you or a loved one gets cancer or an elderly parent gets dementia and needs intense care for a period of time. Would they fire you for that? Then start shopping for a new job today. You're not working for these people, you're slaving for them. Their only real hold on you is fear of losing money. And they're intimidating you into surrendering your rights. I think I'd rather flip burgers than slave for (redacted)s like that. You are more than an editor or effect person or camera op. You chose this profession but it does not define you. You need to put bread on the table, yes, absolutely. But nobody in the corporation is going to care for and raise your kids to be good people except you and your spouse/partner. That's your first duty. You can serve that duty in some other job, if it comes to that. People do it every day. They do it for love.

My dad died alone at the office early on a saturday morning, working overtime. Found slumped over his desk by security patrols, long after collapsing from a heart attack or stroke. He missed two of his grandkids because he committed so much time to running the career hamster wheel and playing the game by the boss's rules. I am as driven to support my family as he was, but I'm not going out like that. Between the wife and kids, and the cool job and good money, there is no real contest. If I have to dig ditches and live on PBJ and ramen instead, I will, as long as I can spend enough time with the people I love.

Love what you do.

Love your family more.

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Todd TerryRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 16, 2012 at 10:41:07 pm

I'll just put on my "company hat" for a minute, and suggest that Aaron takes what he really needs, but, as was said, don't rock the boat.

I know myself, as a company owner, if I were forced to give an employee a full quarter-year of fully-paid salary and have to temporarily hire someone to replace him because he was the only one doing that job.... well, that would not be good. I don't think it would quite bankrupt us, but it sure wouldn't be pretty. It would be several tens of thousands of dollars out of my pocket, in a time when I can ill afford it. Lets say a relatively new employee (a year or two or three) was in that situation and we had to give him the 13 weeks paid. Is he entitled to it? Legally, yes. Would it be the "right" thing for him to do to take that? I'm not so sure. Being entitled to something and deserving something are two different things. I'm certainly not saying that Aaron is undeserving, he might very well be, but almost every avenue in life comes with a certain element of humanity insisting on "gettin' theirs" whether they really should be or not.

It all depends on the person, too. If I had a loyal and trusted employee that had sweated and toiled with me for 10 or 15 years, really helped build my company, never complained about those long hours or weeks... then I'd be more inclined not to grumble about it. Others, I would.

If your employer were a mega-conglomerate worth billions with hundreds or thousands of employees and quarterly earnings with more zeros than you can count, then yeah... "stick it to the man." But for a smallish company I think it's another story.

I myself am far from Dickensian, and am an extremely generous employer. Heck, we don't even keep up with or count vacation time... if someone wants off a day or two or just needs a week at the beach to recharge their batteries, go for it. Sick day? Take what you need, no one's counting (being a small company helps, if we had lots of employees I'm sure we'd be counting the days). But we could never afford 13 weeks. I'm sure that's taken into account when applying the law to companies with 50 or more employees, but I'm sure they feel the pinch as well.

Just another side to think about.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Bill DavisRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 17, 2012 at 8:08:01 am

Here's my 2 cents.


Look, companies are just groups of people. All different kinds of people.

Everyone here is guessing what your bosses and co-workers will do in this situation. But we're all just guessing. You have a huge advantage in that you can talk to them and actually learn how they feel about this.

I'd make an appointment with your direct report boss and lay your cards on the table.

Frame it like "I want to be a team player and I don't want to mess things up here... But I'm also really excited to be a father and I don't want to let my family down. What do YOU suggest, Mr. or Ms. Boss - as the best way to handle this - not just the policies in the book, but the expectations of our shop and the people I work with?

If nothing else, you'll get a sense of what those expectations are instead of trying to guess at them.

What you're asking for is reasonable flexibility to insure you remain a happy employee motivated to work your butt off for the company. If they're smart, they'll realize that and find some flex schedules and ways to make things happen.

It may turn out that they understand the family dynamic and are happy to work with you. OR you might discover that you don't actually need as much flexibility as you think.

Heck, from my days as an early parent, the most valuable thing was often just being able to come in a few hours late a couple of times a week, so that I could cover the 3am feeding for my son and give my wife an chance to get some much needed catchup sleep. My nights and weekends were totally filled with the joy of the baby, so I was getting enough family stuff to be satisfied - and it was cool to have the work group to talk to and share Dad stories with too.

(Now that I think back, I doubt my wife even WANTED me underfoot for 13 straight weeks of 24/7 during those first weeks. But some relief after the first 100 days - especially at night - would have been been HUGE for her.

The point is that every situation is different. You might have a baby that sleeps through the night starting fast and doesn't disrupt much, or you might have a night screamer that runs you both ragged. That's just how it works.

So don't start by presuming anything. Talk to your work team and "work the situation." If your direct boss isn't a family person - maybe their boss is? I'm not suggesting you go around the reporting chain, just suggesting you look around and see who your natural allies are in the shop. Not to pressure them, but to take the temperature of the situation in case if you run into a circumstance where your family situation REQUIRES more flexibility than you think it will.

The underlying point is don't imagine situations for this. Research and prepare for them.

Talk to the people you work with ahead of time. See what they think. Then you can make smarter decisions.

I agree it's hugely important family time. But people have been managing it for as long and work and home have been part of human existence - and often, it simply doesn't have to be looked at as a huge problem.

My 2 cents anyway.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 17, 2012 at 8:09:04 pm

FMLA gives you up to 12 UNPAID weeks per year to deal with anything from a baby, unexpectedly born with severe problems, to giving you time to be with a spouse in the depths of chemo or rehab from a horrible car crash. Or to make arrangements and transitional care for an elder with Alzheimers or to be at the side of a loved one in the terminal phase of dying. If any of these tragedies were to visit you, can any of you tell me with a straight face you could show up to the office the next day and every day, and not have this affect the quality of your work? That you'd really be "present" on the job 100 percent? Forcing people to stay at their posts when outside issues are that demanding is not productive management policy.

But read it again: its UNPAID leave. Medical benefits stay in place, but no salary. That frees up 12 weeks of salary to re-allocate for hiring a temp replacement to cover the absence. Or to pay a co-worker for their overtime. Seems an equitable arrangement that respects the employer's needs and the worker's at the same time. I can't fathom an employer who would just fire a good worker because of a little patch of bad luck. That's Old Testament thinking. That's a permanent "fix" to a temporary problem.

Meanwhile, what's it say about you to the rest of your employees? Especially if as the boss, you DO take time off to deal with your own problems? Its bad for morale and it makes your workers start to look for greener pastures, abandoning you when you need them the most. If we were talking about workers on a widget assembly line at minimum wage, maybe they would be interchangeable and easy to re-train on a regular basis. But our business requires creative people, artists and artisans with unique skills, built up over time. Two editors may both be qualified on the same NLE system, but they are not going to be equal in every instance. Nor will a replacement worker know about your company's culture, its intricate systems and procedures, or its relationships with long-held clients.

We need to keep the social contract alive in this country and realize that success need not be a zero-sum game where one must lose so another can gain. We can all win some, if we work together.

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Andrew RendellRe: Non Video Question
by on Oct 20, 2012 at 12:42:47 pm

When our first came along I took 2 weeks off immediately. 4 weeks would have been great - those first few weeks are very tiring with the broken nights and looking back I don't think I was really pulling my weight when I first got back to work until things settled down after few weeks (although everyone at work was really cool about it at the time). TBH, I don't know what I would have done with myself for 13 weeks, I mean, the option sounds nice and family has to come first in your life in many ways, but in all honesty it was good for me to get back to work.

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Scott CumboRe: Non Video Question
by on Nov 5, 2012 at 4:29:15 am

Yes family comes first, but kids are expensive and taking more than 2 or 3 weeks off is asking to get fired. Having a nice steady income is also putting your family first.

Scott Cumbo
Broadway Video, NYC

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