Friday, January 13, 2023

WIRTW #656: the “Dilenogate” edition

Until now, I've avoided writing about Dilenogate, the story that has gripped the Cleveland legal community and the nation. 

To sum it up, Jon Dileno, a (now former) senior labor and employment attorney at Cleveland law firm Zashin & Rich sent a highly offensive and inappropriate text to an employee who, instead of returning to the firm following her maternity leave, accepted a new job and gave her notice. 

He called her "soul-less and morally bankrupt," threatened to trash her in any future job references, and accused her of "collecting salary from the firm while sitting on your ass" while on maternity leave. 

The story went crazy viral after Kelly Barnett shared the story and text message on LinkedIn.

In response to the viral story, the firm put out a weak (and I'd argue further damaging) now-deleted post on its own LinkedIn page: "That single text was sent in the heat of the moment by an employee upset by the belief that the former colleague while on paid leave sought employment with another law firm." As pressure mounted, however, it published another post the next day: "After careful consideration, Jon Dileno is no longer with Zashin & Rich."

So much digital ink has been spilled about this story, there's no need for me to pile on. Instead, I merely direct you to the following:

I'll merely add the following to this important discussion. The legal community and, more broadly, the entire business community, needs to do better with pregnant workers and new moms. Childbirth and maternity leave aren't a vacation. We as employers (heck, as humans) should never treat it as such, nor should we stigmatize or punish our employees for doing that which their bodies naturally — give birth. Bringing a child into this world is difficult enough. We don't need to make it any harder than it already is. 

Support new moms; don't retaliate against them. Here's a three suggestions to consider that will not only help you support your employees, but will also help you recruit to and keep talent in your business.

1.) Offer strong parental leave programs. The FMLA requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Consider offering more, or offering to cover the employee's pay for some/all of the leave. If you're not FMLA covered or the employee isn's FMLA eligible, consider mirroring the statute for your employees anyway.

2.) Ramp up/down policies. Plenty of employees work their full 40 right up until their due date, and jump right back into the deep end of work as soon as their leave ends. But consider a phase out and a phase in with reduced hours on both ends. It helps the new mom's physical health leading up to childbirth and her mental health in returning to work.

3.) Schedule flexibility. Parenting isn't a nine-to-five job. It's a 24/7/365 job that is really good at throwing curveballs to parents. Late nights with little sleep. Unexpected doctor appointments. Visits to the pediatric ER. Do you want a sleep deprived or otherwise distracted employee at work. You certainly won't get their best. So try to be as accommodating and understanding as possible. Flexible hours and remote work help ease the stress caused by the unexpectedness of raising a newborn.

If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem. Don't be part of the problem.

Here's what else I read this week that you should read, too.

Labor Relatedly Episode 8 - Non-competes, Neutrality, and Other Nuggets — via Lunch Conversation with DriveThru HR

Can AI Pass the Bar Exam? — via Inhouse Blog