Author Topic: AEA MAternity Leave  (Read 10483 times)

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Balletdork

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AEA MAternity Leave
« on: Aug 24, 2011, 10:11 am »
Is anyone else concerned that the words 'maternity leave' do not appear anywhere in the AEA handbooks? I'm doing some research and the only thing  I can find even vaguely applicable is sick leave. Not exactly the same thing.

Surely after 4 years working close to 50 weeks a year for the same company I'm entitled to some kind of maternity leave? I will be calling my Business Rep to find out the real skinny! I can't possibly be the 1st AEA SM who wants to have a baby?!



 :P

MatthewShiner

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #1 on: Aug 24, 2011, 12:02 pm »
No, there is no maternity leave.  It's complicated, not really fair, but it's one of the things about our business.

1) The union is mostly for actors (let's admit it).  A pregnant Juliet is not going to cut it.  Actress are released from contracts all the time due to pregnancies, and probably rightfully so given the roles they are playing.  (Some mutually agreed upon, some fired.  I have even see a non-pregnancy clause in a contract before.)  Its one of the things in the business we have to realize . . . it's not like being an accountant.

2) Second, we are contract employees . . . even if you have been with a company for a long time, it is usually a year by year, if you are going to miss 6 weeks out of a 40 week contract, that's a long time - if it's just off one show, that could be the entire tech process and run.  And, to be honest, being pregnant and teching can have complications itself, especially during the end of 3rd term. 

3) Ultimately, because we are contract employees, we have signed a contract to fulfill duties given the time period, if you are looking to take time off . . . then you are breaking contract - regardless of the reason.  (think if all you had to do is say "hey I am preggers, let me out of a contract scott-free . . . )

4) There is an additional expense in this - think that if you are going to go out, the employer needs to spend a weeks salary (at least) to train an overlapping SM. Producers are always trying to avoid the extra cost.  Ultimately, it's the cost of doing business and producers have bear it.

5) You do have the family leave law to back you up - but unfortunately, this law only applies to employers with 50 or more employees and, in order to qualify, employees must have worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period.  (which for non-hourly employees this might be hard to track).  AND, most of the time, the fact we are contract employees screws this up.  And again, we are talking about non-paid time off (use your sick days and vacation, and after that . . . )  But, we are bound by the contract if we out XX amount of time, we can be replaced.

Most of the time, on non-long running shows, what I have seen happen, is the mother-to-be is let out of contract without penalty - mutual agree to terminate the contract, and a new contract is drawn up with a start date in the future date.  Given you work with the same theater, by all means discuss this with your AEA business rep and know your union rights - but go to the GM and discuss what they are willing.

On more long running shows, I have seen it treated as leave of absence  - with a short term contract filling in for the departure SM.
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BayAreaSM

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Re: AEA Maternity Leave
« Reply #2 on: Aug 24, 2011, 12:30 pm »
And no, you aren't the first. I had asked around previously on SMNet how SMs that were female went about having a baby and a career at the same time. I am planning on having my first soon, and although I don't work 50 weeks a year with the same company, I do have a season-long gig. We are timing our pregnancy to work out that I have the baby during my off season.

Matthew is right, we are contract employees, so it is much harder for us to make the decision to get pregnant with the Sword of Damocles dangling above our contracts. We are entirely replaceable, we must remember that. For me, it's a decision that I will time with moving on from my current company, because I know I won't be able to jump back in at the top of the next season. They will have to find someone to replace me, and then, is it really fair for me to say, "Ok, I'm done with my 'maternity leave' - fire that person and give me my job back."

Balletdork

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #3 on: Aug 24, 2011, 02:51 pm »
Sure. But all these 'expenses' and inconveniences are managed by every other job in the world everyday.

The check out lady at the grocery store has a union, and that union has a maternity leave policy. The bank teller has a maternity leave policy, the police officer, the school teacher, the nurse, the secretary, the McDonald's fry cooker, the brain surgeon etc....

It seems strange to me that there isn't a single word about maternity/ paternity in our by-laws etc... Are AEA actors & stage managers 'not allowed' to have babies?

Clearly, it's best to plan a baby when you're independently wealthy and also laid off due to lack of work.

MatthewShiner

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #4 on: Aug 24, 2011, 03:08 pm »
The difference between the other gigs is they are full time employment, and not contract work. 

Also, you are not quite as replaceable as the check out lady at the grocery store, the bank teller, the school teacher, the nurse, the secretary, the McDonald's fry cooker  . . . BUT the brain surgeon is most likely free-lance (or running their own business) as well, if she isn't doing brain surgeries, she is not being paid. 

You know this industry is different.  For example, in casting, we all the time based on gender, sexuality, color, race, etc, etc . . . things that VERBOTTEN in the "real world". 

Are you looking for paid time off?  Many employers now don't give paid time off . . . you may have to check if your state allows short term disability for pregnancy.  It would be sort of silly for the producer to "pay" for you on contract to be on maternity leave - if so, every female SM who found out they were pregnant would sign a contract. 

As a freelancer - you need to plan, save, and figure these out into your business plan . . . I will work up to this point, and then be unemployed form here on out . . . . and save for it.  (Like you do as a freelancer for any sort of vacation time).

You should note the LORT contract says the following . . .

(c) Pregnancy. A Stage Manager and/or Assistant Stage Manager shall not be terminated because of pregnancy during the term of her contract. The Stage Manager and/or Assistant Stage Manager shall remain on contract without pay or accrual of benefits until she is ready to return to work. The Stage Manager and/or Assistant Stage Manager must give the Theatre the same amount of notice of her intent to return as the notice of termination contained in the replacement Stage Manager’s or Assistant Stage Manager’s contract. 

I sense you are very angry about this issue . . . . yes of course you allowed to have a baby, but it seems like you want someone to pay for it . . . and that's just not set up in our union.  We tend to work for a variety of employers, contract work, two weeks, eight weeks there, 5 years here.

Again, since you have such a long relationship with the theater company, maybe they can do their typical employee issue, but most theaters (like most employeers) often do not pay for maternity leave - you get the leave, but not pay.




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Balletdork

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #5 on: Aug 24, 2011, 03:28 pm »
Your sense is wrong~ I'm not angry. I am disappointed in my union.

Also, (though it has been implied that it is) this not a personal issue for me- but an issue I think the women in particular and all the members in general of our union should discuss and think about.

I'm not willing at this time to say that it's ok for our union not to acknowledge that people have babies or to protect those members who do. Or to throw up my hands and say "oh well, it's always been this way, so what can I do?"

I don't think it's ok that a man can take up to 10 paid days off for every 12months he's worked for illness, but women can't do the same to have a baby.

What you've found in the LORT book is NOT found in the SPT book.

We acknowledge that people get sick and that people die, and we allow our members paid leave with guarantee of not being fired for both of these~ but not maternity.

I would really like to hear more from the female members of our group~ what are your thoughts?

EFMcMullen

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #6 on: Aug 24, 2011, 09:23 pm »
We acknowledge that people get sick and that people die, and we allow our members paid leave with guarantee of not being fired for both of these~ but not maternity.


But remember, getting sick and people dying are generally unplanned events.  Pregnancy, not always but for the most part, is a planned event, especially if you are a freelancer/contracted employee.  And the women could use their 10 days off to have a baby, they would just have to make sure they don't get sick before then.  As I think Matthew stated, as a contract employee, they are hiring you for a specific job for x amount of time and if you can't perform the job for x amount of time, you either shouldn't have signed the contract or are going to need to get someone to replace you at your expense. 

I have been giving this topic a lot of thought lately as the breadwinner in my household and a female in the 2nd half of her 30s with the proverbial clock ticking.  For the most part, I would have to say I agree with what Matthew stated.  Now, I am a resident stage manager in a LORT theater.  I have been at my current position 8 years.  If we actually decided to have children, I would 100 percent plan it around that season if possible.  If it wasn't possible, I know I would also have the support of those I work for to make the best possible decision for me, but I know that it would include me walking away from the job for a while.  However, because of my relationship with my current theatre, I also have the security of knowing my job would be there when I wanted it back.  But quite honestly, my reason for working around the theatre's season is that it would naturally give me the most time off around the baby being born and would hopefully disrupt things the least. (well as much as a screaming infant at 3am isn't disrupting things already....)  If I was truly freelancing I would feel much more nervous about get pregnant on someone else's time/dime.

Now that being said, I do think it is a shame that every rule book does not state language like that in the LORT rulebook, especially those contracts that lend themselves to resident/permanent positions.  This would be something to try to get negotiated into each contract as they come up for discussion.  Unfortunately for SPT, we are now going to have to wait a little bit.


Rebbe

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #7 on: Aug 24, 2011, 11:34 pm »
I think this is an interesting discussion to have.  As a female AEA member, I wouldn’t put maternity leave at the top of my priority list.  I’d be more interested in programs/rule book language to support retirement funds or greater health benefits.  I feel like kids are a choice that may or may not fit with a particular thespian’s lifestyle, while everyone deserves health care, and a way to support themselves in old age.  I’m also not sure I believe that all or even most jobs have generous maternity leave policies, so we’re hardly at the back of the pack as an industry.  Having children as an SM, especially freelance, entails challenges far beyond maternity leave, for men as well as women parents (sick kids, sleepless nights, they’re in the school play while you work, your partner feels like a single parent….)  In a strange way, maybe having this barrier of no maternity/paternity allowance makes people think through their choices more deeply.  I worry that this makes me sound like a backwards anti-feminist, which I’m not.  I think stage management is a demanding job that entails trade-offs.  Not wanting to put family on the back-burner is one of the reasons I’m transitioning out of theater…which is a choice everyone is free to make (perphas temporarily) if the personal cost is too high.   
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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #8 on: Aug 25, 2011, 01:15 am »
Now that being said, I do think it is a shame that every rule book does not state language like that in the LORT rulebook, especially those contracts that lend themselves to resident/permanent positions.  This would be something to try to get negotiated into each contract as they come up for discussion.  Unfortunately for SPT, we are now going to have to wait a little bit.

I agree that perhaps this is the way to go, making sure that our job is secure when we take a leave for pregnancy.  Based on the language, I think it's pretty generous that there is no limit to the length of the leave ("until she is ready to return to work") vs. disability for example which does have a limit.  (FYI this language is also in the CAT.  Perhaps it's slowly making it's way into contracts as they are renegotiated).

I would argue that pushing for paid leave would put us in a more vulnerable position.  If an employer has 2 equal candidates except for sex, I imagine the inclination would be to hire the male due to the potential extra expense of paid maternity leave - and this seems a step backward.

But then again, I don't plan to have children and feel like there are enough things that need addressing which have implications for a greater range of the membership.

Celeste_SM

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #9 on: Aug 25, 2011, 01:33 am »
Many paid jobs don't have maternity leave either. 

I'm not AEA. I stage manage because I enjoy it but I have a full time job in a non-theater industry. I get 6 weeks of state short term disability (8 weeks if I have a c-section) paid at approximately 55% of salary, and my job is held for those six weeks. Because I'm in California, I get another 6 weeks of Paid Family Leave, also at 55% of salary. These are benefits from the state, not my employer. My employer has less than 50 employees so no obligation under FMLA to hold my job during that time.  I think an AEA stage manager would also get all these benefits. So, it seems to me an AEA member has the same minimum amount of benefits as many women in the regular workforce. Many unions/employers offer more, and I think that's great. But I don't think the union is behind the rest of the country in supporting maternity.  Is there any short term disability policy available through the union? If so, then that is a benefit that would apply due to pregnancy related disability. 

I can only believe that maternity benefits are not a priority to the AEA membership.

nick_tochelli

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #10 on: Aug 25, 2011, 01:43 am »
Theater is at the back of the pack in terms of maternity/paternity leave (yes, fathers can legally take time off of work as well but there are qualifications for it). While a majority of employers won't pay for maternity leave (except in 5 states) they are required to hold your job for you so you will have it once your maternity leave is up.

I don't see figuring out maternity leave a priority in the AEA universe. Especially since (as has been pointed out) AEA focuses most of its energies on Actors and not Stage managers. And I'd wager a guess that nearly every actor working under AEA contracts realizes that 90% of their employment is based on their looks/physical characteristics. I don't mean that in a misogynistic way, I simply mean you have to look the part to get the part.

Stage Managers should be treated like any other worker in an office setting, and when they reach the point near the end of their pregnancy and need to stop coming in to work they should be allowed to, and allowed to return to their job after a set amount of time. Strictly my opinion, but I think if anything is going to change it's going to have to change through litigation. Eventually, a female stage manager will have to sue for their maternity rights in order to get them installed universally across all contracts...well maybe not Code productions and readings. That might be overkill. 

The closest analogy (and I'm sorry for those of you who are about to be subjected to my insane level of dorkiness) I can think of right off the top of my head is Dawn Marie Psaltis who worked as an independent contractor as a WWE Diva in 2005. She got pregnant, was released by WWE, sued them, and settled out of court. Fast forward to this year Kia Stevens joins the WWE. She realizes she's pregnant approximately 4 weeks after her TV debut and can't be physically active as she has a high risk pregnancy, and instead of firing her she's put on Inactive duty. She remains under contract and off TV. When she is able to rejoin the roster she will. 

Now I realize this anecdote is told through the lens of a performer and not a backstage hand. But the independent contractor aspect is the important comparison. WWE caught huge flack for it's role in Dawn Marie's release and the only reason they've changed their tune about pregnancy is because they were sued. Do they still expect their talent to not get pregnant while under contract? Yes. But they know better than to fire those who do because no publicly traded company likes a high profile lawsuit. This from a company that squashes all attempts at unionizing it's workers. So even without a union looking out for their interests, pro wrestlers have found themselves with better maternity protection than actors and stage managers.
« Last Edit: Aug 25, 2011, 02:03 am by nick_tochelli »

MatthewShiner

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #11 on: Aug 25, 2011, 03:04 am »
I think part of the issue with the SPT contract's wording is that SPT shows tend to run    shorter, be produced on a smaller budget, and by companies who may not have the fiscal or human resources to cover an outage of up to 8 weeks.  And although I think the wording might eventually end up in all contracts, I am sure the producers push back a bit.  (Also, is an AEA ASM required on SPT?)

And yes, I think if a PRODUCER was on the hook for paying for leave, I would be very concerned that producers would, all things being equal, hire the man over the woman (unless they paid for all FMLA leave . . . ).

If we just talking about time off . . . and someone holding your position, I doubt many producers or general managers who balk at this (unless they were unhappy with your work), regardless of the specific wording of the contact..  But, the FMLA, which covers this, has specific limitations.  Not all theatres, including SPT, have 50 full time employees - hell, some LORT Theatres don't have 50 employees - and few commercial shows may have 50 full time employees (Well, maybe the musicals . . . )

I don't know of anyone who was laid off of an AEA show contract because of pregnancy . . . I think maybe it's not a huge issues, because it's not an huge issues.

If we are talking about paid time off, I am unsure WHO would paid for this?

The employer who's contract you are currently on, that seems like a little bit of pregnancy roulette . . . if you work 6 weeks, here, 9 weeks there, 4 weeks there, and then start a 10 week contract, and there is where you take the time off, the forth theatre would need to pay for the leave?  Seems awfully odd.

If we think the UNION should pay for it . . . I am unsure how that would work . . . I doubt ANY union pays this directly, it's always the employer - and that issue see the above.  If it was the union, would there be a set amount they paid, based on your past weekly salary?  BUT, I would argue THAT'S not the purpose of my union. Again, if you choose to be pregnant, then you should incur those costs.    If I take time off from "Work" to have a surgery, I wouldn't expect my union to pay the salary I would have received - if the surgery was medical necessary or not.  I would actually be against the union paying out direct benefits.

As pointed out, if a woman wants that pay, it would have to be a combination of paid time off and vacation, just like what a man who have to do if they had a medical issue or wanted to take off for FMLA.  (Remember, even if a man is sick for a LEGITIMATE reason on a LORT contract, they can be released after two weeks . . .

(E)Should the illness of an Actor continue for two weeks or more after the Actor’s sick leave is exhausted, Equity shall, at the request of the Theatre, have full power to modify or terminate the Actor’s contract upon such terms as it may consider just, if it shall be satisfied that it will be necessary for the Theatre to employ a successor.)

We are just a different business.
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loebtmc

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #12 on: Aug 25, 2011, 03:14 am »
This is a difficult subject because I am from an era where women were not given opportunity because (regardless of marital status or expectation) the assumption was, we were going to get pregnant and leave. That was the excuse given in my med school  as well as stage management interviews, as well as from teachers who refused to give women A's because we were going to end up barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen, so why bother. Seriously.

Part of the battle is changing the category and making pregnancy NOT an illness. That's a first step. But, avowed feminist that I am, and while I think maternity leave (and paternity leave) should be a basic right, until women SMs (or women in other male-dominated professions) are accepted and hired equally, until we don't lose jobs because our capability is based on someone else's erroneous assumptions, and while scarcity of jobs is laden with reasons why NOT to hire someone, I worry about requiring paid maternity leave.

In addition to Matthew's arguments, which are correct, you can only plan to a point since no one knows for sure, until they experience it for themselves, that they won't have issues being pregnant - from morning sickness (which can kick in any time of day) to bed rest restrictions. Not to say women haven't had babies on their own for centuries and went on with the harvesting or whatever, but are you able and willing to take time off if your health requires it? Are you willing and able to take time off or bring in help once the baby is born? And are you able and willing to leave if your baby requires special attention? In today's world, that job isn't shared by anyone else, and the extra hassles combined with hormones and post-partum depression are enough to drive even calm, even-tempered, capable, smart women over the edge. And, what happens to your show if any of the above kick in?

However, good luck. It's been done before, and it will be done again. Frankly, most of my work has been covering in a resident company for a show or two (tho not for pregnancy), so ideally they hire someone who wants to be in a new place for a show or two without moving permanently.

« Last Edit: Aug 25, 2011, 03:17 am by loebtmc »

MatthewShiner

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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #13 on: Aug 25, 2011, 03:41 am »
Quote
Part of the battle is changing the category and making pregnancy NOT an illness.

And I am sorry that I compared it to that  . . .

Also part of this to factor in, is how much time do women take off  . . . my mom's last child, I went to school, and came home and my mom was cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and viola, I had a new brother.  There isn't a set time for just having a child.
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Re: AEA MAternity Leave
« Reply #14 on: Aug 25, 2011, 01:21 pm »
Quote
    Part of the battle is changing the category and making pregnancy NOT an illness.

And I am sorry that I compared it to that  . . .

it's not you - it's how it's generally categorized (tho in the LORT it's under Termination), something that needs to be rethought on many fronts