When Jasmine Dixon was just two weeks post-partum — recovering from a medically complex birth and dealing with her infant son’s return to the hospital, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit for newborns (NICU) for various complications — she says she had to go back to work as a sales associate at Walmart.
Why? Because while the $230 billion company offers 10 weeks of fully paid family leave to its salaried employees, it offers only 6 to 8 weeks of partially-paid leave to its hourly workers — and none at all to its part-time hourly employees.
“[ My son] Zyon was admitted into the NICU, and for four months, I had to leave his side so I could go to my shift at Walmart, and then I would go straight back to the hospital,” writes Dixon, of Denver, in a Change.org petition asking the retail giant to change its family leave policy. “It was incredibly hard to leave him every time. I ended up having to quit my job at Walmart because of the time I needed to spend with Zyon at the NICU.”
Now, to advocate for more inclusive paid family leave at U.S. companies, Dixon has teamed up with a fellow mom and former Walmart employee, Regina Mays, of High Point, N.C. Mays claims she had to go back to work at her local store and let her breast milk dry up (as she says she was given no place to pump) despite her 6-week-old daughter needing the milk to help soothe her severe acid reflux.
To make their case even stronger, the moms have joined forces with PL+US, a nonprofit organization aiming to make paid family leave a reality for all.
“Paid family leave is an elite benefit in the U.S. [and] 94 percent of low-income working people have no access to paid family leave,” noted a new report released by the nonprofit, showing that, unfortunately, Walmart is not the only multibillion-dollar company to offer disparate benefits to its various employees. “Unequal paid family leave policies at the nation’s largest retail employers hits low-income and households of color the hardest.”
Starbucks, Taco Bell, McDonalds, AT&T, Amazon, and Nike are among companies offering unequal family leave benefits to its lower-paid workers, according to the report; others, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Costco, the report claims, were not transparent about the benefits they offered.
Walmart spokesperson Blake Jackson tells Yahoo Beauty that its family-leave benefits do make the distinction between salaried and hourly employees (as opposed to corporate vs. in-store employees, as was inaccurately characterized in the PL+US report, he says).
Regarding the specifics, he says the retailer provides 10 weeks of fully-paid leave for birth mothers who are salaried employees, 6 to 8 weeks of partial pay for birth moms who are full-time hourly workers (which make up a majority of the company’s employees), and no paid family leave to part-time hourly employees. However, Jackson adds, p/t hourly associates can earn up to 144 hours off that they may use at their discretion, and which may be cashed out or rolled over from year to year if unused.
While Jackson would not comment on the specifics of either mother’s claims, he did say that Walmart has a policy that allows for the pumping of breast milk.
But PL+US sees shortcomings. “Offering partial disability pay to full-time moms and absolutely nothing to fathers and adoptive parents who work in their stores is not leadership,” PL+US chief of staff Brianna Cayo Cotter tells Yahoo Beauty, referring to a Fortune article in which Jackson refers to the retailer as a “leader” in this area. “Leaders are companies like Ikea that offer adequate paid leave to all parents and all employees equally.”
Longtime paid family leave advocate, author, and head of Family Values @Work, Ellen Bravo, tells Yahoo Beauty these findings tell a stubborn behind-the-times story. “There are unfortunately many large, low-wage-paying companies who do offer paid leave for executives and not for all the workers, and that’s a problem,” Bravo says. “The only way we’re going to solve this problem for everyone is through a social insurance policy approach.”
That’s because many small companies can’t afford to offer paid family leave on their own, Bravo says. But, she adds, “Wealthy companies that can afford it have no business having inequity,” not only among new parents, but between genders, and also for anyone who has someone to care for, whether a parent or a child who is older and has medical needs.
As the campaign for Dixon and Mays notes, “Walmart is one of the richest retailers in the world, but its corporate policies leave hard-working families in dire straights. It shouldn’t be this way.”
Read more from Yahoo Beauty + Style: