our boss is being a jerk about bereavement leave for miscarriages

A reader writes:

My company recently updated our bereavement policy. While reviewing it in our company-wide staff meeting, a staff member asked if a miscarriage would qualify and the immediate answer was “no.” No room for discussion. The temperature of the room immediately dropped; it was so uncomfortable.

I am not a mother, have ever been pregnant, or plan to be, but I cannot imagine the heart ache of going through a miscarriage. I would not even give a second thought to granting bereavement leave to one of my staff if they came to me saying they had/are having a miscarriage. Not only is this such a traumatic physical experience, but it’s also an emotionally traumatic experience. Technically speaking, there was a loss of life. As a manager, I’m of the mindset that bereavement really isn’t an area where I want to get nitpicky with my staff and instead want to be as supportive as possible. Granted, I’m very aware that there are staff who will take advantage of the system, but I’m not talking about this.

To add to that, we are nonprofit specifically focusing on the well-being of families with a big emphasis on mothers and children. I don’t see how we as an organization can advocate for women but not even support the staff who work here when it comes to this.

We’ve had multiple staff come to upper management very upset and we agreed with them. We forwarded on the concerns to our executive director, and these are the questions she came back with:

Things to keep in mind:
• How do we define this?
• From the moment it starts? Or is it at this point a medical condition?
• Do we consider for all the time it last? Once is over, then bereavement starts?
• Do we require medical statements? How do we manage this time?
• Do people need to report they are pregnant? By when? Is this a HIPPA problem?
• It is the same to miscarriage at one month of pregnancy as at three or six months?
• People have asked for bereavement for pets, they say they are family to them. Do we include this as well? We already made bereavement more flexible.
We already give everyone 11 paid holiday days, plus a minimum of 12 days PTO (this is annual and sick combined) for those starting in the agency. When we upped the PTO, it was for employees to have enough time to take care of their lives when needed. That is not how people look at it.

Our company is 99% female and about 80% are of child-rearing age and are planning on having children in the future. We had an employee come to us today who is going through a miscarriage and she does not have enough PTO available so she is working through it because she doesn’t want to go on leave without pay. It breaks my heart. I don’t want to create an environment where staff are scared to tell their supervisor about this because they’re scared they won’t be supported or will be asked intrusive questions or for documentation.

I’ve done some research and see that a lot of companies/states are starting to implement bereavement leave for miscarriages. (Our governor even signed a bill putting this into law for all state employees.) Is this something companies should be offering? Are we being delusional?

Your executive director sucks.

There’s so much to rip apart here that it’s hard to know where to start, but let’s start with the 12 days of sick and vacation time combined. So people get the two weeks of vacation that’s considered the absolute bare minimum, stingiest level acceptable in the U.S., plus two sick days? And this is an increase from a lower amount before that? And she thinks that’s enough for vacation, sick time, and “taking care of their lives when needed”?

She’s delusional if she really believes that. She’s also delusional if she thinks this is competitive with other employers. It’s not.

As for her other questions: You don’t need to define “miscarriage”; it already has a medical definition. You trust employees to decide for themselves when they’re experiencing a miscarriage that bereavement leave would be appropriate for. You say “three days” or “up to five days” or whatever you land on. You don’t require people to report that they’re pregnant ahead of time; that’s unnecessary. You don’t require medical statements because that’s an unnecessarily layer of intrusive bureaucracy when you can simply trust your employees not to abuse this. If someone is abusing any kind of sick or bereavement leave, you ensure you have competent managers and HR who will address it; you provide them with support and training so they can do that. It’s not a HIPAA problem because HIPAA has nothing to do with someone choosing to self-disclose to an employer (HIPAA covers what health care providers can disclose). It has nothing to do with pets; that can be considered as a separate issue if you want to, but by raising that she’s clearly just trying to yell “slippery slope” when in fact it’s not.

Your executive director is trying to manipulate you with her long list of questions into thinking this is unworkable. It’s not. Other organizations offer miscarriage leave. Your own state offers it to government employees. This is not an impossible thing to work through. She just wants you to think it is.

That’s before we even get into how unaligned this is with the organization’s mission.

She just doesn’t want to give people more leave. That’s already clear from the obscenely paltry amount she’s been willing to grant, which she’s trying to somehow sell as generous; her resistance is simply in line with that.

It sounds like a lot of the organization’s leadership disagrees with her, so you’re well positioned to push back as a group. But I’d bet a significant amount of money that this is symptomatic of larger issues with your executive director and how she views employees.

Read an update to this letter.

{ 472 comments… read them below }

  1. HailRobonia*

    Making employees report that they are pregnant to qualify for miscarriage bereavement? Might as well make all employees formally declare and record all their close relatives.

    “Oh, you want bereavement because your mom passed away? Denied. There is no record of you having a mother.”

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      She sounds like the type of person who would argue that step or adoptive family members don’t count either; and if a family member other than mother/father raised you, they don’t qualify.

      1. Katie Did*

        A few years ago, my manager was engaged and two months before the wedding, his fiance’s mother passed away. He put in for bereavement leave and HR said, “Well, she’s technically not your mother-in-law yet, so it doesn’t qualify as bereavement…”

        He raised holy hell and got his bereavement leave. When the same thing happened to me this year (my fiance’s father passed away), I got the leave no questions asked.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I feel like bereavement leave is one of those things where the upside to letting people decide what “counts” is enormous and the downside is fairly minimal. People just do not use bereavement leave that often, and when they do it’s because something terrible has happened! I feel like if it seems like someone is abusing bereavement leave you can address that without making policy decisions about whose death you’re “allowed” to be traumatized by.

          Especially since at a lot of companies bereavement leave is like 2-3 days.

          1. Goldenrod*

            Wendy Darling –
            Totally agree!! I did have a co-worker who tried to claim bereavement leave for a dubious situation (a “mother figure” who did not raise her and whom she was not related to)…But this employee had all sorts of other performance issues, so it made more sense to focus on those, and deal with the weird request individually…No need to have a punitive policy for one-off cases!

            1. Pretzel*

              Yes, this is the kind of thing you can address on an individual level, not a policy level!

            2. Ansteve*

              That’s what always gets me. The ones who abuse a perk usually are the types of people who have other shortcomings. Making a policy because Alex in the mailroom was caught at Disneyland after telling their boss that they were in the hospital is just lazy management and only hurts those that have legitimate reasons for using that perk.

              1. Laser99*

                Hard agree. It can be used as a cudgel for any manner of things. “I’m expected to be under surveillance when I’m working at home???” “Yeah, ever since Alex claimed to be ‘working at home’ and tagged themselves at the beach. Sorry!”

              2. Irianamistifi*

                I often think about this type of thing because I have an unusual family situation and I would be angered to have to explain the minute details of my life to get proper bereavement leave. I’ve heard of college professors being like “you already had a grandma die this year, you can’t have it twice! ”

                I have 4 mothers. My biological mother, Her wife. My dad’s partner. My partner’s mother. They are all in their 70s. I don’t feel the need to tell my manager all this. When something happens, as medical issues sometimes do, I simply say I’m helping my mother. I feel no one is entitled to information about my family and I’m sharing this info here to illustrate the point that rigid policy about what ‘counts’ is going to leave people out and hurt employees.

                1. Christmas Carol*

                  I remember a college professor (calculus) asking us to complete a form including, among other things, who taught our section from the previous course. After collecting them, he warned us that if our grandmother died the night before the exam, the first thing he was going to do was contact our previous instructor to see if she had already died last term. I immediately replied that most people had at least two grandmothers. He started sputter about the statistical probabability of a person’s two grandmothers grandmothers dying the night before the exam two terms in a row. Yeah, we were all math nerds. I didn’t bother telling him both my grandmothers were gone before I turned 2.

                2. LlamaLibrarian*

                  My grandfather really DID die during finals week my very first semester of college. And we had been quite close. I didn’t even try to reschedule my calculus exam, and failed it.

                3. irianamistifi*

                  @Christmas Carol, I desperately want to know what the odds were that both my maternal and paternal grandmothers passed away 4 years apart, both on Halloween, irrevocably ruining my favorite holiday. So yes, totally possible for grandparents to pass at the same time of year. Life is short! Things happen!

            3. Also-ADHD*

              And I can’t imagine that if an amazing employee reported bereavement for an unusual mother figure, there wouldn’t be a lot of need to consider whether it was dubious. People would probably just accept it. I’ve been at a company with broad bereavement, even for pets actually, and I’ve never seen people take it a lot there.

          2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            Yes, and adding miscarriage to the Bereavement Leave policy should be standard for both parents (hopefully partners are included). The purpose is just a tiny [b]extra[/b] time that people need to attend to practical matters like a funeral and travel, not the time to actually grieve. It’s a payroll code… does this time off belong to the vacation, sick, professional development, or bereavement bucket? The company doesn’t make me justify vacation, “did you GO anywhere? No — then this doesn’t count.”

            1. jez chickena*

              I worked for a company where you had to give a reason for vacation. It was a form field, and if you didn’t fill it out, it was declined. One year, I told the truth, “I have worked here for three years and have not taken any vacation time. I am tired.” My boss asked me what I had to be tired of.

              1. Bast*

                “Going surfing.” They don’t need to know you mean “channel surfing” on a well deserved rest day.

              2. Nica*

                Back in the 80’s, my mom worked for an organization that granted three days of “personal leave” but when you put in for it you had to give a reason for needing the personal leave, which is kind of ridiculous and intrusive.

                So, one day my mom had to take time off to go to the doctor for some tests. She had NO desire to disclose any of this because there were some very nosy secretaries in her office who saw these forms and would grill her about why she went to the doctor, what doctor she saw, what happened at the doctor, etc. not because they cared, but because they were all nosy nellies. In this particular instance, she really didn’t want disclose because she was being tested for a very serious chronic disease and, until she had more information and test results, did not want ANYONE in her office to know what was going on.

                So she filled out the request form and for “reason” she put “personal.” She put it in the boss’ box. He called her in the next day and basically said, “I’ll grant the day off, but ‘personal’ is not an adequate reason. I need to know why you are taking the time off.” She looked at him square in the eye and said, “It’s personal. I don’t want to disclose it. Isn’t that the whole point of a ‘personal’ day? It’s ‘no questions asked’ time off, right?” He disagreed and tried arguing the point with her. She let him blather on but eventually said, “If you don’t drop this and you don’t give me my time off, then I will file a grievance with the union.” That shut him up quickly and he signed off on the personal day.

                My mom was rather incensed by the whole thing anyway, and still went to the union steward who agreed it was ridiculous and, long story short, that line was unceremoniously dropped from the request form going forward. And, thankfully, my mom’s tests all came back fine.

                1. Andromeda*

                  Why do businesses do this? If they give you the days anyway, what’s the logic behind making you justify them?

          3. Bruce*

            Every time I’ve been bereaved my manager has let me take a lot more than the 2-3 days that policy calls for (three times, once for each parent and once for a spouse). I tried to check in when I was in a state of mind to do it, but for my Mom I was out while she was in hospice and for my wife I was out for 2 weeks solid and slowly ramped up after that. I’m glad I had managers that were good people, and that their bosses were good too. Being humane about bereavement is such a basic thing, and being a jerk about it is a huge huge red flag.

            1. Bruce*

              (to be clear, I was working for a different manager in each case, and at different companies. So it was not just one place that handled things the way they should be done.)

            2. Ms_Meercat*

              I’m always glad to hear of these examples. My employer was great when I lost my mom. Granted, I’m in Europe, so maybe we’re just more generous there. But when my mom was in the hospital and my dad told me “the hospital has said you should get on the next available flight”, I called my boss on my way home to grab a bag and he simply said “Go home, we’ll hear from you when we’ll hear from you”.
              When she passed the following night (I did make it in time and was there), I had flowers in my house the next day, and phone calls to express sympathy from each of the 3 founders. Other than that, crickets. Not one email, message, anything. 2 weeks later after the funeral etc I joined the managers meeting for the first time again and started working. They never even asked me to put anything into the HR system.

          4. goddessoftransitory*

            And abuse of bereavement leave often seems to boil down to “that one guy” they knew as a teenager thirty five years ago that regularly had grandmas pass away on a Friday afternoon.

            It’s like someone’s girlfriend in Canada or that one person who died from getting their tonsils out–it’s probably happened on vanishingly rare occasions but the story could populate a midsized city.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Unless you work with Nobby Nobbs, in which case you just have to have reasonable limits such as only allowing bereavement for four grandmother deaths per year.

              Seriously, bereavement is such a tiny amount of leave anyway, it seems like it wouldn’t even be worth scamming.

              1. SuperAdmin*


                I think I’d take Nobby Nobbs as a coworker over some of my current team…

                1. Nobby Nobbs*

                  What’s the benefits package look like? Do they offer dental? A dartboard? How many grandmothers’ funerals do you get off annually?
                  (Couldn’t resist, it was already my username!)

            2. N.*

              feels like the office world version of the hysteria around food stamps or disability fraud. punish everyone that actually needs it and make them jump through fifty extra hoops so That One Guy Who’s Totally Faking It I Promise™ doesn’t get in.

              (To be clear, I would be okay with 99 “fakers” in a group of 100 if it meant 1 disabled person that actually needed the support could get assistance. Having gone through the process myself, if someone managed to con their way through that mess of a system, I’d honestly say they deserve the money.)

              1. Worldwalker*

                There are two general categories of people: One would rather that some undeserving people are included to ensure all deserving people are included. The other would rather that some deserving people are excluded to ensure that no undeserving people are included.

                1. This is Today's Name*

                  Yes. I explained Student Loan Debt forgiveness to my brother who was very anti (“I HAD TO PAY) with a similar analogy: There are two types of people “I suffered and it sucked and I don’t want others to have to suffer the same,” and “I suffered and by God so will everyone else!” I know which group *I* prefer to belong to !

                2. N.*

                  @This Is Today’s Name

                  There was a comic I saw recently, with a character saying “I fought cancer! If they come out with a cure for cancer now I’m gonna be so mad.” followed by an “Artist’s Note: this is about student loans”

                  I wish I knew where it was from, because oh boy if that isn’t a big subsect of people I know…

              2. Wendy Darling*

                The real pisser is that paying to administer all those extra hoops is generally found to cost MORE than just letting the fakers have the benefits. It’s not about saving money, it’s about punishing people.

                1. N.*

                  It’s all about power and humiliation, but with a big side of “Our current culture tells you that people in bad situations brought it on themselves, and/or they’re being divinely punished for some sin they committed.”

                  Except, (and I apologize for possibly butchering this saying), ‘disability is the minority group that’s always drafting new members’

            3. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

              Yeah, it’s like they all worked with Klinger from that old show, MASH: Mother dead, father pregnant.

            4. The Starsong Princess*

              I had an employee who was off for a bereavement for her stepfather every year. In our policy, stepfathers, including ex step fathers, counted. Her mother had been married seven times! and the employee went through a streak where they were kicking the bucket one after another. She went to the funerals for two of them because she was actually bereaved and went for another two to celebrate that they were actually dead. She was entitled to the leave so that was that.

              1. Lydia*

                As it should be. In a world where family structures are flexible and varied, it’s always better to err on the side of kindness.

                1. This is Today's Name*

                  Exactly. There are many members of my FOO whose funerals I wouldn’t attend and for whom bereavement wouldn’t be requested, while my FOC people I would truly grieve and need the time for. But guess which one company “policy” permits bereavement leave for? So, I’ve learned to just say “I lost a family member” and leave it at that.

                2. not nice, don't care*

                  So gross that millions of Americans would prefer to eliminate flexible family structures rather than be decent people.

              2. Texan In Exile*

                When my husband’s father died, a month after his mother’s funeral, I told my boss that I didn’t really think I should get more bereavement leave because the only reason I was going to FIL’s funeral was to make sure he was dead.

                (Boss – who is still my friend and at whose house I am having lunch tomorrow – insisted I take the leave anyhow.)

            5. I can read anything except the room*

              “You need a good excuse: Emergency dental appointment. Death of a triplet – that one, you can use twice!” – Gina Linetti

          5. Smithy*

            Absolutely all this – and I also think that some of this goes back to the very short amount of leave this place offers at all.

            Many years ago I had a job where on Fridays we always had a light day, and two people were all that typically was needed. But those shifts with only person was incredibly difficult. One day a few hours before the shift starts, I get a call from the other person I was working with that she’d just learned that her boyfriend had been taken as a POW and was it ok if she didn’t come in.

            It was far too late to get anyone else, but the idea of insisting someone come to work in that moment was just nuts. Sure that shift wasn’t ideal and I have no idea how that was coded for HR, but to insist someone come into work in that moment would have been wild. She was a great colleague and if this was a lie to get out of work that day – quick frankly it would have been sadder that she felt that way.

          6. Bereavement*

            my company handles this by giving 2 days for bereavement generally but extending it to 5 days for parents, siblings, spouses, and children.

            So you can take bereavement leave for anyone you feel the need to mourn, but get more for what they consider a close relative. To the best of my knowledge no one has ever abused this.

            1. Rosemary*

              It astounds me that anyone who has lost a child could be expected to come back to work after a week.

              1. SpaceySteph*

                This is not really what bereavement is for. Its for attending the funeral and handling affairs.

                Most reasonable companies would expect someone to take a leave of absence after losing a child beyond what’s offered as bereavement leave.

              2. New Jack Karyn*

                Oftentimes, doing normal things helps. Filling the hours and the brain with tasks helps set aside the pain for a few hours at a time.

                I haven’t grieved for a child, though. It’s probably different for everyone.

            2. What_the_What*

              Wow. Our company gives 20 days for a parent, spouse or child. And there are avenues to extend it in extenuating circumstances (e.g. foreign travel, executor of estate duties, etc..). 5 days?? Holy that sucks!

          7. CTC*

            This. When my much-beloved pet (not here to get into a debate about pets as family members ftr) died a few years ago, my boss told me to just take whatever time I needed. Pets are not covered under our org’s bereavement leave, but individual managers have a great deal of control and flexibility due to our org structure. I took about day, no questions asked or concerns raised. My enormous respect for/trust in/loyalty to my boss grew further. All was good.

        2. Kleisters*

          To paraphrase Steve Jobs said, there’s not one of you HR maidens who doesn’t suck.

        3. SuperAdmin*

          I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised when my then-boyfriend (now-husband) was offered a full week of bereavement leave when my Grandma passed away. We weren’t yet married, she wasn’t my immediate relative (some policies only count parents, spouse, or kids!) yet his company let him know he could take the time if he needed to support me.

          He didn’t need it all, but that is now the standard I hold all employers to for bereavement leave.

        4. Lauren*

          I have the exact opposite story! My fiancee and I split up and about 8 months later her mother passed away. I was very pleased to discover that my work still considered her a close family member for the purposes of our bereavement policy, which I hadn’t expected at all.

          1. Frankly, Mr. Shankly*

            Back when my partner’s father passed after a long fight with cancer, I was texted and called *repeatedly* on the day of the funeral *during the mass* (yes, I left documentation, yes, the department knew why I was out) and was then told that I couldn’t put it in as bereavement because my partner of (at the time) 18 years and I were weren’t married. Nuance is dead.

        5. Massive Dynamic*

          One of the best companies I ever worked for, and manager I ever worked for, granted me full bereavement when my mother-in-law’s fiance passed away. I’ll never forget that. I was able to be there at the funeral and burial and support my MIL.

        6. SpaceySteph*

          I will never forgive the manager who told me I couldn’t use bereavement for my great grandmother’s death because the policy stated “grandparents.” Nor will I forget the wonderful HR person who told him to shove it and approved my leave. How many 20somethings have living GREAT grandparents that it would be a big hit to the company to expand the policy.

          My great grandma was awesome (I liked her more than either of my grandmothers) and you better believe I got on that plane even before they sorted out whether I could have leave for it.

      2. Learn ALL the things?*

        The day I decided to quit my last job was the day one of my coworkers found out a family member had been murdered, but the family member wasn’t a parent, child, or sibling, so didn’t qualify for bereavement leave. She was in her first few months with the company and the policy was that staff couldn’t use vacation days until they passed probation, but she was obviously distraught and unable to stay at work so she ended up having to take unpaid leave. I decided then and there that I couldn’t keep working for a company that would do that to its staff. It took a few months for me to find another job so I could quit, but my mind was totally made up at that point.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I’m a crier, so the company’s options would be insisting I stay at work while sobbing or letting me take some time off.

            1. Learn ALL the things?*

              Yeah, she was a weepy wreck to the point that she didn’t know what to do. I told her to call her husband, and if he hadn’t been able to come get her I was going to offer to drive her home. I was genuinely worried about her trying to drive herself in that condition.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I really hate it when company policy seems to forget that they employ human beings with all the messy human needs that comes with.

          My massage therapist had to cancel once. She was really apologetic, trying to reschedule, saying she’d do the rescheduled appointment for free, etc. The reason she was cancelling was that her sister had just died, and she was focused on making sure *I* was completely taken care of.

          (I’ve never had to put down the boundary “I will pay you for your work” with a service provider before, but it was one I was pretty insistent about.)

        2. Texan In Exile*

          At an old job, a co-worker’s stepson was murdered. Another co-worker, who had just resigned, wanted to donate her unused PTO to the stepmother, but the company wouldn’t let her. Jerks.

        3. Audrey Puffins*

          That’s ridiculous. If you get a situation like that, especially one so extreme, in a policy-rigid workplace, then it’s management’s job to say “you take the time you need, and we’ll figure out how to make it fit the policy later”

      3. Sally Sparrow*

        I had to a raise a stink about bereavement leave at my work because my spouse’s grandmother passed away. My immediate manager was fine with it. But the person in charge of recording leave was not okay with it and sent me back the policy which only explicitly listed regular grandparents (child, sibling, grandparent, mother-in-law, father-in-law).

        I was so mad and pitched an entire fit. I pointed out that my siblings are only half-siblings which aren’t covered by the policy. That when my dad died about a 15 months earlier, it wouldn’t have covered my siblings (since stepparent wasn’t listed); or if the reverse had happened (because stepchild wasn’t listed). I listed out a bunch of other gaps.

        My manager at the time escalated it to her boss (he was also the boss of the person recording the leave), who approved it. But it was ridiculous to have even needed to go there.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        I’d sure like to hear that argument. As an adoptee I would probably black out and come to in custody.

        1. LilPinkSock*

          Hold onto your butts: when my dad was in the hospital (ill, not dying—that came later), I wanted to take half days to be with him and help my mom. My manager knew I’d been adopted as an infant and asked me point-blank “Yeah but is it your real dad or the adoptive one? There’s work to be done here”. I just walked out of her office, took the half days, and filed a complaint with HR.

          Fuck that lady.

      5. Some Words*

        I like how my employer has handled this. It’s pretty much on the honor system of “Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” I just say I’ve had a death in my family & will be taking time. They trust that I’m not abusing the system. Of course some people will. That’s just reality, no matter what policies are in place.

        This employer should be ashamed of offering only twelve days of (combined) PTO. Employees deserve better.

        1. MapleLibrarian*

          Same with mine. My mom did medical assistance in dying (MAID) a few months ago, and my boss was just “take the time, if you come back and feel you need more just let me know.” Had to fill out the form so that HR would know. Their only question was that I was taking Mon-Fri off and Mom was doing it on the Tuesday. I accept that question cause it turns out this was the first time my uni has had to deal with MAID and they had to know why I was taking time off before the date of death….they had to figure out among themselves how to code the Monday in their system evidently. I didn’t hear back so I assume they figured it out.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I’m sorry for your family’s loss. And I hope it’s some consolation that your mother was able to go out on her own terms.

        2. I Have RBF*

          This employer should be ashamed of offering only twelve days of (combined) PTO.


          Companies who single bucket vacation and sick usually make it 15 days, not a penny pinching 12! The minimum, IMO, is to allow for an annual five days cold and a two week vacation. Twelve days makes me think of retail or food service, where people are considered fungible cogs that need no downtime, they can just quit.

          That director should have to deal with a prolonged illness or disability and learn how the rest of the world lives.

          1. Penguin*

            Where I work now (a nonprofit), only gives 10 days combined PTO. And I live in a state that requires employers give sick leave (MA), the policy basically covers the states requirements for sick leave. I’m regretting not asking about this ahead of time (I made the mistake of assuming it be at least on par with was my previous job), I was shocked when I found out how low it was during orientation. I’m also not entirely sure they even have a bereavement leave policy.

      6. Judge Judy and Executioner*

        Years ago I worked at a place and only had 10 days of PTO a year. My cousin lived with my family for several years growing up, he was like a brother to me. When he passed away I had worked at the company for almost 2 years and never used more than the allotted PTO. One of the first things my boss said after I returned from the out-of-town funeral was that my cousin didn’t qualify for bereavement leave, and I would need to use 2 vacation days to cover my time out of office. I explained he had lived with my family after his mom died when we were kids, and he was like a brother. It didn’t matter to my boss, and I had to use my vacation time. I’m grateful my current place of work is much more accommodating, and starts everyone with 20 days of combined vacation and sick time, in addition to allowing for “manager discretion” on gray areas.

      7. Star Trek Nutcase*

        Boss neglected to include queries about bereavement leave for spouses or partners of the woman who miscarries.

      8. MAC*

        My company has the oddest qualifier in the bereavement leave policy re: definition of family. If your spouse’s sibling dies, you get 3 days. If your sibling’s spouse dies, you don’t get any.

        I don’t have a spouse, so I’m not in danger of losing in-laws that direction, but I have 3 siblings who each do have a spouse, all of whom I’m quite close with. If any of them died it would be just as much a loss, but my company wouldn’t see it that way.

    2. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      When my grandfather died I had to provide his obituary as proof that I needed the bereavement leave. It was tacky, but my particular manager didn’t write that policy. By that point I knew the higher ups didn’t listen anyways.

      1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

        Same with my grandmother. I had worked for the company for 5 years by then and she was the first and only death that ever qualified for my bereavement leave, and I had never even tried to ask for bereavement before that, just took PTO because I had read the company handbook.
        I had to beg my mother and aunts to include me in the obituary because there was also almost no indication of our relationship and it was 500 miles away from my job, so I didn’t want our HR to give me even more of an issue when I got back, that I had just slipped them the obit of some random elder for that sweet, sweet 24 paid hours of mourning. (/s)

        Based on having attended a good number of family funerals and, unfortunately, a rising number of non-family funerals or other bereavement activities, I’ve given it so much thought. If I ever ran an organization, I would allow people 10 bereavement days per year right out of the gate (and I’d consider some rollover). They would not have to submit justifications of blood relationships, and if someone seemed to be “abusing” these days off, that would be an issue I’d want their managers to attend to. FMLA doesn’t cover everything and takes forever to qualify, and PTO is just so insufficient. People get to determine what others mean to them and the grieving process and the administrative logistics of loss don’t give a crap about your schedule. I would also gratefully donate some of my bereavement time if a coworker was having a rough go of it with a loss of their own.

      2. What_the_What*

        My grandmother had 9 kids and approximately a zillion grand/great grandchildren. The obit only named her children, spouse and “numerous grandchildren,” so an obit wouldn’t have provided any support if my employer asked for one!

        1. Retired editor*

          When my grandmother died back in the 1960s, I was in high school. One of my uncles worked for IBM, and his boss and grandboss both showed up well before the funeral to help. They ran errands, helped set up chairs at the church, and were generally respectful and helpful. It made a huge impression on me, in part because most of the people in my close family were self-employed or in academia, but also because I was young. Being asked by a stranger in a suit about what needed to be done was a new experience .

          My assumption is that there was no caviling about the time off, if two layers of management were participating, too.

    3. stratospherica*

      At the risk of alarming people, I’ve actually had to do this in my current job, lol… I had to report all of my family despite the fact that I live with none of them, none of them are dependent on me, and in fact, all of them live in different countries to me.

      1. stratospherica*

        And yes, I had to report my grandfather as having passed away in our HR system lol, there’s a specific function for that

        1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          The day and a half of bereavement leave I put on my timesheet when my FIL died was challenged by Payroll because they did not already have record of him dying before my timesheet was submitted. Apparently my boss telling me to take the time I needed and approving that time as I allocated was not enough.

    4. Scoopdacoop*

      A supervisor of mine once tried to deny a colleague’s bereavement leave because it was the colleague’s adoptive parent who died.

      This same supervisor treated the pandemic as if it had been coordinated (and in her opinion, greatly exaggerated) solely for the purpose of inconveniencing her schedule. *eye roll*

    5. business pigeon*

      I found out my grandma died in the middle of a work day. I couldn’t find my supervisor, so I told a few coworkers that I was leaving and why. When I talking to my supervisor later about which days/how many would count as bereavement leave, she told me she didn’t think the day I left early should count. As usual, I just kind of said “mm-hmm” at her and then counted it as bereavement leave on my timesheet anyway, because what the hell. I could have taken 5 days and only ended up taking 2.5 days, so I fail to see why that half day shouldn’t count. She was an idiot, anyway.

  2. Ultimate Facepalm*

    This just put a knot in my stomach – how awful for your poor coworker not able to take any PTO during this at all. I hope your ED changes her mind.

    1. Heart&Vine*

      It seems she’s concerned with two things only. 1. She doesn’t want to give more leave for ANYTHING and 2. She thinks most people will abuse the policy if it did exist.

      Firstly, you’d have to reach a new low to fake a miscarriage just to get extra time off (although I almost wouldn’t blame people who’re given this little time off), so the chances of someone abusing this policy would be slim to none. Secondly, it would provide much needed resting and healing time (both physically and mentally) for women who ARE experiencing this kind of loss. Would you honestly want a bleeding, grieving woman to be back at her desk???

      ED sounds like the kind of person who’d say, “We have parental leave, it’s called the weekend. Push it out, sew it up, be back on Monday.”

      1. Jamjari*

        Also, there’s only so much someone could abuse this, even if they stooped that low, unless things are very different elsewhere. We have a set amount of bereavement leave per year. After that, I’d have to take PTO. If I had no PTO left (luckily I get more than 12 days), I’m sure we could work something out, but it’s not like I could take bereavement leave every month.

      2. Observer*

        She thinks most people will abuse the policy if it did exist.

        No she doesn’t. Nothing that she asked about has anything to do with abuse. To the extent that she’s mentioning it, it’s an excuse to be awful.

        “We have parental leave, it’s called the weekend. Push it out, sew it up, be back on Monday.”

        She does indeed. How does someone like that become the ED of an organization dedicated to the well-being of families, much less one with an emphasis on mothers and children?

        Either she fundamentally does not believe in the mission or she’s utterly incompetent and both should be disqualifiers for the position.

        1. Dina*

          Unfortunately, I’ve seen (from the inside, sometimes) so many examples of organisations not following their stated values when it comes to their employees. :/

    2. a trans person*

      I feel so awful for her. Even if the ED does reverse course with pressure, that’s *never* going to fix the situation for this coworker. This isn’t a trauma that can be fixed with equivalent time off or bonus pay. I don’t know how I would move forward with a company after a betrayal like this.

    3. Miss Kitty*

      Every full time job should be required to offer two weeks of sick leave on top of yearly vacation. It should be mandated by law.

      1. Lisa*

        I get it, and in general I agree, but a law like that messes things up for me/my employer.

        We don’t track sick time, we are treated like adults and if you’re too sick to work you tell your manager and team and don’t work. The only place the amount of time comes into play is that if you’re out longer than 2 weeks you are supposed to apply for short-term disability (which is provided at no cost as part of our benefits). The exception is employees at our California offices, where employers are required to give a specific amount of sick time, so those employees have to track it and they get that specific number of days. I like the way I have it better.

        1. Rose*

          I think you’re confusing a mandatory minimum amount of sick days with a mandatory total amount.

        2. Starbuck*

          A mandatory minimum wouldn’t have to change your situation at all. They could still choose to be flexible and allow you to take more than the minimum, the law would not stop them. Please, can we not argue against basic, bare minimum worker protections? This is sad.

          1. Lisa*

            I’m not arguing against it, just pointing out there are better ways. And yes, my employer does use it as an exact number, not a minimum.

  3. WeirdChemist*

    If the last few years have shown anything, it’s that most people don’t understand what HIPAA is

    (Also your director massively sucks!!!)

    1. Rat Racer*

      It’s always a dead giveaway when people spell HIPAA like Hippo with an A at the end.

      But – and I’m not a HIPAA expert by any stretch – is there any risk to an employee in a requirement to declare that they were pregnant and had miscarried? Like could an employer use that information to infer that the employee is intending to start a family and then pass that employee over for a promotion? Obviously, this isn’t legal, let alone ethical, but my question is not whether an employer should, but if they could get away with it?

      1. badger*

        HIPAA has zero to do with employers unless the employer is a health care provider or other covered entity and the employee receives care from them (e.g., staff of a big HMO). And even then it’s what the entity itself can disclose to others about that individual *in their capacity as a patient,* which is separate from what they can disclose *about employees in their professional capacity,* and also totally separate from what employees can be required to disclose about their own lives (which is not covered under HIPAA at all).

        There are other laws that would potentially protect the issues you’re talking about.

        (also there are health care entities and providers that misspell HIPAA…my fave was when I worked for an electronic medical records company and we’d get emails from clients that misspelled it constantly, 15-20 years ago. No need to read into that.)

      2. WeirdChemist*

        It’s not a HIPAA violation to ask someone to self-report a medical condition. As you mentioned, there’s other issues with it such as potential discrimination that are covered under other laws, but it’s not a HIPAA violation.

      3. Moose*

        “Like could an employer use that information to infer that the employee is intending to start a family and then pass that employee over for a promotion?”

        This sounds like it’s a plausible thing that could happen and would violate non-discrimination laws (I’m not an expert on non-discrimination or employment laws) but it has literally nothing to do with HIPAA (I am an expert on HIPAA).

      4. bamcheeks*

        To be honest this is why I didn’t disclose when I had a miscarriage. (It was very early, so I had only just found out I was pregnant and was still very much at the stage where you know it’s a fairly large risk, so for me it was less upsetting than a later miscarriage would have been.)

      5. Dittany*

        That could conceivably happen, but it has nothing to do with HIPAA. The law is concerned with what *your doctor* (and doctor-adjacent folks, like the practice’s front desk staff) can or cannot disclose and to whom. Asking someone to self-disclose a medical condition does not – CAN not – violate HIPAA.

      6. No Tribble At All*

        I would absolutely not disclose any family planning status unless I had to. If my manager knew I was trying to conceive? Every time I called out sick for a day they’d be like IS IT ANOTHER BABY.

        That’s waaaaaay too much personal information

    2. Yes And*

      There was a delightful infographic about the differences between HIPAA and HIPPA going around the internet a couple of years ago. I’ll post a link in a reply.

    3. NotSarah*

      I use to investigate communicable illnesses and inspect tattoo shops – this is so very true. HIPPA really only applies to healthcare settings. It not some magical law that governs all matters private and personal.

    4. Observer*

      it’s that most people don’t understand what HIPAA is

      I think you are giving her too much credit. As an ED she should already be aware of this, and should be able to find out this information if she were actually concerned, so I don’t think that genuine confusion is at play here. Also, this is not a question – it’s an implied threat. It’s in the list of “things to keep in mind” ie a list of things that actually present a problem. And also, look at the rest of the list. There is not a single genuine question there – it’s a list of reasons to not consider this, and nothing on that list is in good faith. Like does she REALLY think that the only way to possibly do this is to require people to report their pregnancies in advance? Is tracking and recording this *that* complicated? Obviously not.

    5. Amk*

      I was just coming here to say- I always know when someone knows nothing about HIPAA when they spell it HIPPA (former healthcare worker where HIPAA actually applied here).

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If you judge my knowledge by my ability to spell acronyms correctly, I know nothing.

      2. anon24*

        Also in healthcare, when someone mis-uses it we say the HIPPA hippo strikes again :)

    6. Mango Freak*

      People still just flat-out don’t believe me when I tell them that HIPAA doesn’t cover what employers do with employees’ info.

  4. tabloidtained*

    My company’s handbook describes a fairly standard bereavement policy, but when it came time to implement that policy, humanity took priority. A colleague who had a devastating pregnancy loss was out for a couple of months, both to recover physically and emotionally. Another colleague who lost a family member traumatically was out for a week. I don’t think there was any question of demanding they return after a day or two.

    It’s work, it’s business, but my god, can we not treat each other like people first?

    1. Bereaved Relative*

      Yes! One of my relatives fell off the Grand Canyon and died when they were on vacation. I was their only next of kin able to travel, and while my company’s standard was 3 days of bereavement leave, they were very generous in letting me have 10 days off not only to make arrangements, but to go to Arizona to collect their remains and belongings and drive their car to a whole other state. If someone is going through a traumatic loss, can we please err on the side of generosity?!

      1. Goldenrod*

        “One of my relatives fell off the Grand Canyon and died when they were on vacation.”

        I guess I’m naive, but I didn’t realize that could happen!

        I’m so sorry you had to experience that….!

          1. Quill*

            Any kind of climbing / trails with large, or even moderate, drops will occasionally get somebody. You can hurt yourself very badly by falling distances that don’t seem all that great, and even if you survive the fall it can be hard to get medical care to you in a timely fashion.

            1. Aldabra*

              I hurt myself badly tripping and falling on a flat sidewalk, so it’s easy to imagine how a fall of even a few feet can be lethal.

          2. Bruce*

            There is a whole book about ways people have died in the Grand Canyon…
            I read it the same way I read a book about people who survived the sinking of their sailboats, I wanted to learn from their mistakes.
            To be clear I’m not making light of what “Bereaved” said, I’m very sorry that happened to their relative and it must have been horrible to have to deal with it.
            I’ve also been lucky to have had generous and humane employers when I was bereaved, this should be the standard and is hopefully not an exception.

            1. Orv*

              What shocked me wasn’t how many people died by falling from the edge, which was both a fair number *and* fewer than I’d have thought. No, the startling thing to me was the number of people who died of dehydration after hiking down into the canyon unprepared.

          3. Jam on Toast*

            When I visited the Grand Canyon several years ago, I spent most of time in the park with my heart in my mouth, terrified I’d witness someone falling off one of the lookouts. A tragedy just felt so, so possible and so, so inevitable between the crowds, and the terrain and the bare minimum of barriers.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          It happens a lot, because there’s no barrier at the edge of the canyon. People slip or miscalculate.

          Bill Bryson, in The Lost Continent, describes being at the Canyon during a week of socked in fog; a real obscuring curtain. He hiked down to see if he could see anything, only to have the mists part and reveal he was about three steps from oblivion. He leapt back with a “Holy shit!” and could hear dozens of similar exclamations up and down the trail!

          1. Goldenrod*

            “He hiked down to see if he could see anything, only to have the mists part and reveal he was about three steps from oblivion.”

            My god. Based on these comments, I am revisiting my (admittedly vague) plan of someday visiting the Grand Canyon!

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I believe the majority of accidents happen when there are adverse conditions (low visibility due to fog, slippery conditions due to rainstorms, etc) or when people choose to increase their risk by approaching the edge or hiking down one of the trails (which is incredible, but somewhat dangerous).

              If you visit on a clear day and don’t approach the edge, your visit to the canyon is probably safer than the drive you took to get there.

            2. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

              I had visited as a child and only remembered the railings and obvious barriers, and always wondered how this could happen so frequently, but after a return visit last Feb. (15 months ago), I discovered just how easy it would be for even an attentive visitor to miscalculate even if they weren’t doing a hike down. The most populated visit points have railings, but that isn’t much of the Canyon. There is an easy (cemented) walking trail along the South Rim, and I was visiting with a friend and her dogs a few days after a snowstorm. The trail was shoveled/plowed, and the snow barriers between that and the rim were melting, and it was consistently shocking how close we were to the very edge. Nothing unfortunate happened, but it was easy to forget and let the dogs roam and then realize nope, yank that leash, wander on the other side of the path!

              I’m so sorry for your loss, Bereaved Relative. I’m glad your company acted humanely!

            3. Orv*

              There are railings at some of the more popular overlooks, but many others (e.g., Desert View) have nothing at all. It’s just far too vast to enclose the whole thing. Fortunately you don’t have to get that close to the edge to get a good view.

            4. Elle*

              Definitely still go- it’s incredible. Just, y’know, use common sense, as on any other trail.

      2. Mellie Bellie*

        This is so true, especially since most of us will have the “opportunity” to need bereavement leave at some point. Empathy is a gift.

      3. Some Words*

        Your employer was not just generous, but also practical and accepting of the facts on the ground. Being the person left to do all the practical clean up/organizing after a death is a LOT. And it doesn’t just take a few hours.

      4. Susannah*

        Oh, I am so sorry you had that awful experience. And glad you had a humane employer. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you – someone dying on what was meant to be a lovely vacation at a spectacular spot, then being the only relative able to travel to take care of it all. So sorry for your loss and your added anguish.

    2. Paint N Drip*

      Humanity should take priority!! Such a crazy world to have to dictate that :(

      I have had 2 miscarriages. Both were physically challenging, and one was very emotionally challenging – it was at 14 weeks after I had shared my good news… bereavement was absolutely what I was going through.
      Recently I lost my dog best buddy and although plenty of people would not consider that to be a qualifying life event, bereavement is absolutely what I’ve been going through. As many things as I complain about regarding my job, they treat me like a person that occasionally experiences human life events and I couldn’t be more grateful for that!

      1. Blue shades*

        Yes, I’ve had three miscarriages and even just physically I was not fit to work or do anything for any of them, to say nothing of my emotional state. The last one I needed an operation, too, so that was more days off. My husband’s company, normally a slow moving behemoth, stepped UP. He had time off to take care of me and our kid, everything, no questions asked. While it was “only” three days, but it made all the difference in a really terrible situation.

    3. Woodswoman*

      I’d be curious as to how the time missed by your colleagues was coded, though. Whether they are hourly employees or salaried ones can impact that for sure, but also, they could have been using FMLA (and possibly short-term disability) rather than paid or even unpaid bereavement.

      To your point, though, the human decency component should allow employers to come up with some kind of creative solution, even if it isn’t officially bereavement.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      When my mom’s health took a sudden turn for the worse I applied for my state’s paid family medical leave, but she passed away before my application was processed so I was no longer eligible for that (which, tbh, seems like an unfortunate gap — “Oh your loved one who was so sick you needed to take off work to care for them is dead? Back to work IMMEDIATELY!”). My company offers a full week of bereavement leave for close family, and I also took 2 weeks of PTO after that because I just needed some time.

      This was absolutely not a problem in my workplace. We have unlimited PTO (at our managers’ discretion) and if anyone said boo my manager shut it down before I heard of it.

      At a previous job I had a coworker whose wife almost died giving birth to twins, lost one of the babies, and the other baby was in the NICU for months. He was on leave for something like 3 months, came back for a few weeks, and then went back on leave for a bit because he wasn’t ready. I don’t think all of it was paid, but his job was there for him when he came back and if anyone had said an unkind word about it they would have been nuked from orbit. I happily took on some of his workload where I could.

    5. EA*

      I have had a miscarriage. I think sick leave is more appropriate for a miscarriage, and sick leave + additional bereavement for a stillborn (there are medical definitions of each). I did not disclose my miscarriage when I took sick leave for it. It would have been very uncomfortable to request bereavement leave, which is usually for handling the “logistics” of a death in the family. But my job has a very generous sick leave policy.

      The real issue here is your horrendous PTO and sick leave policy.

    6. iglwif*


      I am annoyed with my most recent ex-employer for laying me off, but while I was there I was very impressed with how well they handled this kind of stuff. I had a colleague with 2 kids under 5 who lost their spouse very suddenly, and the ONLY response to this, from great-great-grandboss down to direct report, was “take the time you need, we’ve got this.” I don’t know how HR handled the technicalities, obviously, but it felt like the whole department pitched in to make sure she could take whatever time she needed. And I know even crappy companies can have some good and compassionate managers, but this did actually seem to come from (or at least to be supported by) the top.

  5. Safely Retired*

    The saddest part is the “she” in “these are the questions she came back with”.

    1. Dris*

      I’ve learned the hard way that the identity group a person belongs to doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about their capacity for solidarity.

      I once had a manager tell me outright that #MeToo was bs. She was the head of HR.

      1. Let's not name names*

        The hard way I learned this lesson: my female boss, whom I spent a good portion of my job promoting as a feminist leader in her industry, denying me a raise with a major promotion. When I pointed out I would be making less than a newly hired, lower level male colleague, she told me (falsely) it was illegal to discuss salaries with other staff; then I heard for days from other directors about how offended she was by my asking.

        1. Let's not name names*

          And! Highly relevant to this conversation: that job was so toxic and demoralizing, but I stayed there for YEARS, in large part because of how kind and understanding they were when my brother unexpectedly passed away (I give 100% of this credit to my direct manager and not the organization itself.) So yeah, this matters a great deal. People remember how you treat them at their lowest.

        2. Goldenrod*

          “my female boss, whom I spent a good portion of my job promoting as a feminist leader in her industry, denying me a raise with a major promotion”

          Classic! My mom worked as a secretary at a private school. Her female boss taught and created the Women’s Studies program. She also made my mom’s life hell, and INSISTED SHE MAKE COFFEE for the break room.

          (My mom decided that was the hill she wanted to die on, and outright refused, in case anyone is wondering…)

          1. Kleisters*

            But she was the secretary. Do you expect the teachers to make their own coffee?

            1. pope suburban*

              …are they not adults who can feed and water themselves when in need? What a weird thing to insist someone else do for them. Should she have cut their food up for them too? This isn’t, like, taking meeting notes or ordering more printer paper, this is meeting adults’ dietary needs, which is no one’s job but their own.

              1. pope suburban*

                Curses, hit submit before I could add the obligatory “Ignore me if this is sarcasm and my tired brain just missed it.” But, yes, that, should it be the case. :’D

      2. Goldenrod*

        “I once had a manager tell me outright that #MeToo was bs. She was the head of HR.”

        In my personal experience, THIS TRACKS.

        1. Bumblebee*

          Yes – it’s HR’s job to protect the company, at the end of the day, so being too on-board with these kinds of complaints can be seen as not protecting the company.

      3. Venus*

        I had a female manager say that it’s reasonable for mothers to be denied promotions because of the choices that they made. Thankfully the male managers in the room were shocked and told her openly that it was very much against company policy. I have taken the opportunity to mention this to the people who now work for her, wherever she moves, because they need to be aware that parents are likely to be quietly discriminated against.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I worked for a company where the CEO was a mother. She chose not to take maternity leave, so she didn’t see why anyone else would. Going straight back to work was great for her!

        I’ve heard the company eventually caved and started offering it (probably because it was standard in the industry and top companies were offering 9-12 months parental leave), but I bet she’s still complaining.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          The person who can comfortably afford in-home childcare, housekeeping, lactation consultants, complementary healthcare, etc etc has a very different postpartum experience, I imagine.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      That is NOT the saddest part. The saddest part is the terrible low annual PTO.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Well, technically the saddest part is that she thinks the low annual PTO is a generous improvement.

    3. the identity group a person belongs to doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about their capacity for solidarity*

      Say it louder for the people in the back!!!

      I am a “liberal” with all of what that entails. My eyebrows have met my hairline at some of the comments my “liberal” brethren have shared.

    4. Rose*

      Why? Grieving isn’t gender specific. Fathers get deeply excited about pregnancy too.

  6. ChattyDelle*

    having had 2 (early) miscarriages, my pregnancy loss was not a pet. they were very desired pregnancies. your ED sucks, sorry

    1. Ameisp*

      +1 I would have been furious if my employer had made that comparison when I lost my pregnancy.

    2. Paint N Drip*

      I took bereavement time with a miscarriage AND when my pet died. Both are legit I think

    3. Annalee*

      There’s so much wrong with the ED’s reply that it’s hard to pick one thing, but this one really got to me too.

      First of all, why bring that up in relation to miscarriages? If they offer bereavement leave for any family member, then they already have to bear the Terribly Difficult Burden of specifying that only human deaths qualify for bereavement leave (or IDK they could…not? let people take 3 days off when their pet dies; it’s not like an org like this is offering generous leave).

      Second of all, not to be crass, but if someone is currently experiencing or recovering from the experience of expelling their deceased pet’s remains from their body, or supporting their partner through that? Then yes, they should be offered both leave and grace. If they are not, then again–why bring it up in relation to miscarriage?

      1. Observer*

        If they are not, then again–why bring it up in relation to miscarriage?

        That’s such an obvious point, that it’s pretty much impossible to believe that she brought it up in good faith. Even without all of the other ridiculous things on her list.

    4. LGP*

      I’m very sorry for your losses (my wife and I also had 2 miscarriages), but I don’t think we should be going down the road of “this kind of loss is always more painful/significant than that kind.” All losses are valid and can affect people in different ways. There’s no need to compare.

      1. Put the Human Back in HR*

        I agree with you but it took me some time to get there. My beloved daughter was killed in a traffic accident just weeks short of her 40th birthday. It happened August 13, 2019. When I first lost her, people would corner me at work and explain that they understood my loss and pain because they’d lost their pet. When I didn’t respond how they thought I should, they said an article in Psychology Today said they are comparable losses. I missed my sweet girl every minute of every day and those people infuriated me. We went remote spring of 2020 due to Covid and it stopped. When I got about 4 years into the loss, I realized that types of losses just don’t matter. People grieve their losses in their own way. I feel like I have a rock on my chest that makes it hard to breathe but at the same time I have an empty void in my heart. But I don’t try to litigate other people’s grief. Like LGP said, there’s no need to compare.

        1. datamuse*

          I fully believe that a pet’s death is legit bereavement and *also* that what those people said to you was obnoxious.

          I’m so sorry for your loss.

          1. Laser99*

            I feel the same. I have never stopped grieving my shadow cats, and I never will. But when someone I know experiences bereavement, my response is not to start drawing parallels in my own life.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Strongly agree. You can *feel* that your respective losses are equivalent without saying so to the newly bereaved.

        2. WellRed*

          Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry for your loss. And no, I don’t think it’s comparable to losing a pet, but your choice not to “litigate” grief is a wise one.

        3. Starbuck*

          People who try to equate the death of a child with the death of a dog, cat etc are beyond the pale. It’s hard to imagine being that oblivious and self-centered that you can’t recognize the different scope of those losses, and I say this as a childless person who prefers pets to kids in my own life. They’re nowhere near the same.

      2. LittleSomething*

        Agree. I lost three living children in a terrible incident, and separately lost a pregnancy. The measuring-our-grief thing helps no one.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      I am child-free by choice and I love my pets. They bring me so much joy. I panic at the thought that someday I am going to lose them.

      However, I did NOT birth my pets. It is bizarre to think that there is a “slippery slope” between a miscarriage and a pet.

  7. Anon For This*

    My province (Canada) has actually made it a law to provide miscarriage bereavement – however, it does not need to be paid.

    I’m on my fourth pregnancy (still no kids – this one is looking good though!). I took some amount of time off for all of them, although it varied. We have much more generous sick/vacation/flex time so it wasn’t a hardship. I personally was comfortable disclosing to my managers each time, but I could imagine not feeling comfortable with that depending on the manager.

    What I can not imagine is working through the miscarriage as if nothing had happened. (For me I did work a bit in the background to give my mind something to do. I would mark myself as offline on teams/chat so people couldn’t contact me out of the blue, but kept up with background tasks.

    1. ZSD*

      I’m so sorry for your previous losses and wish you all the best with this pregnancy!

    2. KGD*

      I’m sorry for your losses and sending you all the best for this pregnancy. I also can’t imagine working through a miscarriage. I had my miscarriage at work and it was physically and emotionally traumatizing – it was really public and I pretty much fell apart. I called my boss on the way to the hospital to apologize and ask for one day off and she was so kind. She told me that she had needed several days off after her own miscarriage and that I should just get in touch after the weekend. It helped so much to have her take it seriously and focus on my health and loss rather than PTO.

    3. Ophelia*

      I’m sorry for your losses, Anon; sending lots of good wishes for this pregnancy!

      I also benefitted from a corporate culture with a lot of flexibility during two miscarriages (both of which, for me, involved medical intervention, so there was so clear sick leave, but also flexible PTO that I used and understanding managers). A few years later, I was lucky enough to be part of the committee that looked at updating our leave policies, and one of the recommendations we made was to provide bereavement leave for miscarriage. I was really glad to be able make that recommendation, and see it be taken up.

      I really would have struggled in the situation outlined by the OP above – and frankly, while I probably also would have tried to work through it, I really doubt the organization would have gotten much from me in those initial days. So there is an added layer here where this organization is making their employees’ lives measurably worse, and not actually getting any benefit from doing so.

    4. Zona the Great*

      I hope your rainbow comes in so bright that you nearly go blind (with joy)!

    5. Ultimate Facepalm*

      Sending you good vibes and best wishes for a successful pregnancy and a beautiful perfect baby!

    6. iglwif*

      I’m so sorry for your losses, and am sending you all the good vibes for this pregnancy!!

      I also can’t imagine working through a miscarriage as if nothing had happened. Even getting a negative pregnancy test result on my first IVF cycle–in other words, I may have felt pregnant but I never actually was–upset me enough that I had to take a couple of days before I could be in the office without randomly bursting into tears. Fortunately my boss at the time did not suck.

  8. Dris*

    For managers in red states in the US: consider also that employees may need time to travel out of state to get medical care related to miscarriages.

    Hate that this is something we have to contend.

      1. Mio*

        I’m also Canadian and in my province, pregnant women and other pregnant people who miscarry after the 19th week can take maternity leave with benefits (also known as leave exclusive to the person experiencing pregnancy or childbirth), as it’s meant to recover from pregnancy or childbirth.

        Unfortunately, I don’t think our province has anything in place for pregnant women and other people who go through a miscarriage before that.

        I’m sorry for your losses.

        1. Mio*

          I double-checked and realized I was wrong. Until the 19th week inclusively, an employee who has a miscarriage can take 3 weeks off to recover, more with a doctor certificate, but without pay or maternity benefit (although perhaps ei or an insurance benefit could be available at least for the 3rd week or if it goes on longer). So a leave is available but not everyone might be able to afford it.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          In the UK, losses after 24w are counted as stillbirth, and you’re entitled to full maternity benefits including a full year of maternity leave. There are regular calls to lower the gestation limit to recognise how traumatic a later second-trimester loss is both physically and emotionally.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Yep; having to book travel time without saying why. Our great nation.

  9. Carrots*

    I think the bigger problem here is the lack of sick leave that is distinct from vacation leave. I think sick leave (which should really be called medical leave) is more appropriate for the typical early miscarriage than bereavement leave – although the affected person themself gets to decide. Having had 2 miscarriages myself, at 6 weeks and 9 weeks, I did not find either one traumatic physically or emotionally – but it was still a medical process my body had to go through, I still needed medical appointments, I still needed to take sick leave, and I still needed time to process.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I think the bigger problem here is the lack of sick leave that is distinct from vacation leave

      Could you please explain your reasoning behind this?

      1. Double A*

        I think the biggest problem is that it’s so stingy. Twelve days for sick AND vacation time?

      2. Not on board*

        I think they mean that what is normal for many companies that treat their employees half way decently is that they get 2 weeks paid vacation, and then some sick days/PTO on top of that. What’s happening here is that people are taking 2 weeks vacation (because people need vacations to recharge) and then if something medical happens with either themselves or a family member, they have no sick leave left.
        Employment laws in the US are honestly so terrible – worse than countries considered much less developed. In Canada, stat holiday pay is legally required, and 2 weeks vacation is a minimum – then after a certain number of yeas with the same employer it moves to 3 weeks vacation. Although not required, many companies offer some sick days on top of this.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I’ve worked places with bad PTO like this and literally nobody did that. We’d hoard leave and then use up whatever we had left in December. Nobody is taking a fill two week vacation to recharge and then being shocked when they don’t have it left to get sick. I mean, I’m sure someone SOMEWHERE does that, because people, but it’s not the norm.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Yes, I work in a place that is stingy on PTO, no one is taking vacations to just “recharge”.

      3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Among other reasons, having a single leave bucket, especially such a stingy one, tends to lead people to coming to work when they’re sick, and passing the infection on to their coworkers.

        More people will tell themselves, and their coworkers, that “it’s allergies” or “it’s only a cold, that’s no big deal,” if calling in sick means having to cancel a planned vacation than if sick leave doesn’t eat your vacation time. Yes, sometimes those symptoms really are allergies, but if you’ve never had hay fever before, that’s not the way to bet.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Especially when it’s a “use it or Management confiscates it” scheme, people start seeing it all as vacation. Especially when it’s that paltry of a benefit.

        For LW’s company, losing even a single day to the calendar rollover is almost 10% of the total PTO.

        That said, I don’t know that there is a perfect scheme.
        Rollover encourages presenteeism (I know that one from experience).
        Confiscation encourages maximization of time taken–usually near the deadline so one isn’t caught ill without time to take. It creates incentives for illnesses being faked and PTO being taken when it’s least advantageous to the business.
        “Unlimited” PTO has more problems than solutions–it’s more “unlabeled” than unlimited, doesn’t roll over or pay out at separation, usually results in less time than a finite benefit.
        Separate banks punish the healthy (albeit with the implicit assumption that the sick get some enjoyment or break during an illness).
        A unified bank punishes the sick–less/no vacations since they need the time for illness.

        1. Phoenix*

          Unlimited with a standard “minimum” amount that must be taken per year seems like the way to go, to me – say, a week that must be taken all at once, plus at least five other days taken throughout the year. I know there are a few industries that require a two-week contiguous leave once a year for auditory compliance reasons, but I don’t know of anywhere that requires leave minimums for culture or equity reasons.

        2. Anon for this one*

          I am literally typing this comment while at chemotherapy. I am more than happy to trade places with any healthy person who thinks I’m getting a sweet deal because I’m using up my sick leave and they aren’t.

          1. jasmine*

            I also bristled at “punish the healthy”. Being out sick isn’t the same as taking a PTO day. Presumably you’re not having fun

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I see generous sick leave as one of those benefits that’s there for whoever needs it, but I really hope I don’t. Like short-term disability or, you know, bereavement.

            There are a lot of benefits I think make my organization/society/the world a better place, even if I don’t personally get money from it: college debt forgiveness, parental leave, childcare subsidies, etc.

        3. jasmine*

          You can have unlimited PTO with a minimum and a company culture that encourages people to take time off beyond the minimum. You can also have a standard amount of vacation with unlimited sick leave.

          Honestly the root of these problems is low vacation/sick time. Give employees a month of vacation and suddenly these issues become miniscule.

        4. datamuse*

          My last employer had separate banks with a maximum number of hours that could accumulate for each. Accrued time rolled over year upon year until the cap was hit. Both allotments were generous; I had a coworker who was undergoing chemo and had plenty of sick leave to cover. In case of something *really* outside the norm such as someone being out for months, you could “donate” excess to that person, and people did because we had so much.

          Vacation leave was pretty great, too. By the time I left I could take up to five weeks a year.

        5. Ubergaladababa*

          I think the feds handle this pretty well. Sick leave and annual leave are separate buckets. You accrue annual leave at a rate determined by tenure. 4h biweekly for the first 3 years of service, 6h from 3-15 years, and 8h after 15 years (so 13 days, 19.5 days, and 26 days). You can roll over up to 240h (30 days) from year to year, but bosses get dinged if someone doesn’t take their use-or-lose. Use or lose exists because we get paid out leave balances if we leave government, and also to avoid fraud and corruption. Sick leave stays at 4h biweekly forever but it never expires (it’s not paid out) and you can go negative if you need to. Plus 11 federal holidays off.

        6. Starbuck*

          “Separate banks punish the healthy (albeit with the implicit assumption that the sick get some enjoyment or break during an illness).”

          No they don’t, this is silly. Having separate banks means I can plan and take ALL of my vacation time every year and not have to worry about running out when/if I get sick. I can book all my PTO for the whole year and be confident I’ll be able to keep all those plans even if I do get sick.

      5. Banana Pyjamas*

        I had to go for weekly lab work for 6 weeks after my miscarriage, and I had two doctor appointments separate from the lab appointments. I was lucky to have a lab 5 minutes from my job and do most appointments at lunch, but both doctors appointments and two of the lab appointments required 2 hours of time off. For some people, they would need at least 2 days worth of time off for the appointments alone.

      6. Anonymouse*

        My organization has a hilarious number of different leave banks, each with different maximums and rollover rules. We have:
        -Banked vacation
        -Floating Holidays
        -Sick leave
        -Banked sick leave
        -Wellness hours
        -Compensation time
        -Community Service hours
        -Caregiver leave
        -Retirement leave

        I don’t even know what all of them are. At one point we also had a separate Covid leave bank, but that’s been combined with the sick leave now. Every time I need to log PTO I’m paralyzed by too many choices.

      7. iglwif*

        When I figured out that my US colleagues (at a multinational company) didn’t have sick days + personal days + vacation days, they just had one PTO bucket, I couldn’t quite believe it at first. I asked people I knew well, and indeed what they did was save up some PTO days in case they got sick later in the year. The number of PTO days they got was also smaller than the number of vacation days I got — so say I had 20 vacation days and 12 “sick + personal” days, they would have 12 PTO days in total. Absolutely enormous yikes.

      1. Scientist12*

        I don’t know the answer to this but will point out that FMLA is not paid. If bereavement leave is paid at this company, then that would be preferred to using FMLA. Considering the employee does not have any PTO left and is working in order to get paid, I don’t think FMLA would be preferred in this case.

        1. WeirdChemist*

          There are a (very) few states that offer it paid, which is what I think I was considering. I honestly don’t know much about how FMLA works, so I appreciate a response!

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        Miscarriage is covered under FMLA in the United States. Pregnancy loss is considered a “serious health condition.”

        Pregnancy loss is also covered under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, even if you don’t qualify for FMLA. (Except employees of the State of Texas, as a Texas court recently blocked state employees from being able to exercise their rights under PWFA.)

        Both FMLA and PWFA offer job protection and unpaid leave after pregnancy loss. That doesn’t automatically affect bereavement leave, but it may be worth it for the LW to mention it in the conversations with the ED.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          To clarify – FWFA still applies to private employers and their employees in Texas. The court case only blocked enforcement against the State of Texas as the employer.

        2. Orora*

          Thanks for mentioning the PWFA. It also covers discrimination related to pregnancy or childbirth. A case could be made that denying bereavement to formerly pregnant people for the loss of their family member is discriminatory if you’re offering bereavement to a non-pregnant person losing their family member. It’s worth bringing to the Exec Director’s attention.

    2. lilsheba*

      It may not have been traumatic for you but it is for most people. My first miscarriage was very traumatic for me I cried for days. It’s an emotional trauma.

  10. used to be a tester*

    I may have read the director’s responses wrong, but the “what about pets?” question in the miscarriage discussion really made it sound like she doesn’t consider either to be a case where a ‘real person’ has died. Hopefully I misunderstood the intent…

    1. That Crazy Cat Lady*

      I think the director is meaning that bereavement leave for miscarriages would be a “gateway” to people asking for leave for all sorts of things. Like, “First it’s miscarriages, then it’s pets, then people will be saying they need leave because their favorite TV show ended. When will it stop?!”

      Which is complete and utter BS.

      1. Emily Byrd Starr*

        I think it could either mean what you said, OR it could mean “what if someone’s pregnant dog or cat miscarries?”

      1. ProChoiceAnonForThis*

        I don’t disagree with you that this isnt the place for that debate, but I don’t think thats what used to be a tester meant. I read the comment as it being very gross to downplay the grief and trauma experienced by the person who miscarried by implying that the loss “isnt as bad”, when many pregnant people have strong emotional and familial bonds with their pregnancies.

        1. used to be a tester*

          Thank you! I absolutely don’t want to get into a debate about fetal personhood.
          You understood what I meant exactly – if the director had started talking about “what if people start asking for bereavement leave for childhood friends, or their beloved third grade teacher?” instead of “what about pets?” I wouldn’t have felt as uncomfortable.

    2. ProChoiceAnonForThis*

      Agreed. I’m all for the wide variety of scientific, spiritual, and political viewpoints about exactly when a fetus becomes a person as long as no ones rights are infringed upon (sigh), but if someone is grieving a miscarriage, they’re grieving for a person they love, and no decent person should try to argue otherwise. Pets are part of the family, and pregnancies often are too.

      1. Bumblebee*

        Right! I’m pro-choice AND my kids were completely alive to me from the second I realized I was pregnant. I can think both things at the same time. Also, I know that my kids were extremely wanted; I don’t know how I would have felt if they had not been conceived on purpose . . . which to me is yet another reason to be pro-choice.

    3. jasmine*

      Yeah the implication sounds very much like “well we wouldn’t want people to expand bereavement leave even further by saying they need to grieve for their pets, imagine how ridiculous that would be”

      Grief is grief. I’m not sure where the slippery slope to this “fake grief” is

  11. WellRed*

    Your director sucks but I really think even if she came around to the idea, it would be difficult to actually use the benefit because of her response so far. Also, eff that paltry PTO.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Seriously – I’m not sure why you would have to (or want to, in this environment) disclose that the bereavement was a miscarriage. I would bet that if the ED is willing to be this inconsiderate and thoughtless, then they are also quite willing to discriminate against someone on the basis of the fact that they want to have children, as well.

      why can’t people just say, “bereavement for a close family member” and leave it at that? If the person is getting to multiple bereavements per year, look into it. Otherwise recognize that people have personal lives and losses.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I would say *don’t* look into it unless you have other reasons to suspect the employee is being dishonest. Multiple bereavements in a year actually isn’t suspicious at all, *particularly* if the policy covers miscarriages.

        If my manager asked me to prove that my sister really died because my grandmother died at the beginning of the year followed shortly thereafter by my grandfather, I would be very tempted to quit on the spot.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      Everything this director is doing and saying just seems completely at odds with the mission tof the organization she’s running. And her decisions seem likely to alienate and drive away at least some of the people working there.

      Is there any chance she’s like a Trojan Horse director, who is actually opposed to the work of the NPO, or has disdain for the population they serve and is purposely trying to damage it? I’m thinking of how the various Federal level departments had heads appointed who seemed determine to undermine what that department did (State, Interior, USPS, NPS, Justice, etc) This unsettlingly feels like that.

  12. hi*

    You can’t have a “miscarriage” at six months! That is medically considered a stillbirth, and you usually still have to go through the process of giving birth, often on a labour floor where almost everyone else will be going home with their babies. A miscarriage and even a chemical pregnancy are also very sad and difficult events too! Just wanted to mention that it’s not the same thing.

    Imo the company should increase sick time and general PTO by a lot (they have WAY too little). I personally would not want to have to disclose that I was having a miscarriage to my boss in order to get off the time I needed. I think it’d be better to have time available that I could just say I was sick.

    1. Wonder EA*

      That’s why a lot of companies refer to it in their handbook as “loss of pregnancy” because the semantics, while medically accurate, are outside of what is professionally appropriate from an employer.

    2. LGP*

      That stood out to me too. I’m not surprised she has such awful policies around miscarriage, since she clearly doesn’t even know how they actually work.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I was thinking exactly this too. The UK recently finally brought in certificates of recognition of pregnancy loss, because the emotional trauma of miscarriage was compounded by the lack of any acknowledgement in law that there was ever a baby to lose (whereas with a stillbirth you get a death certificate).
      There’s a legal, medical, and social recognition in every society I know of that loss after a certain point in pregnancy is 100% bereavement of a person – the precise gestation where point falls depends on your views, country etc, but I don’t know of any place or community that says it doesn’t fall within the pregnancy at all (and some people argue, at least in other contexts, that the point is prior to the medically recognised onset of pregnancy…).

    4. Dandylions*

      I’m not sure these distinctions would matter because the medical diagnosis of a miscarriage typically uses the term abortion.

      “Spontaneous abortion of embryo at 3 weeks gestation” or “Missed abortion of fetus at 16 weeks gestation” are the diagnoses for my miscarriages for example.

    5. tg33*

      It’s similar in my country. Up to 24 weeks it’s a miscarriage and sick leave applies. After 24 weeks the child is considered viable (there is some chance if the child surviving if born), so sick leave and maternity leave applies.

    6. iglwif*

      I didn’t realize there was that medical distinction, but 6 months stood out for me too, because a loss at 6 months absolutely is a different experience from a first-trimester loss.

  13. Stuart Foote*

    A couple of jobs ago my company’s PTO was ten days total, including sick time. In the employee handbook they acted like combining sick time and PTO was doing everyone a favor by reducing confusion over what was a permissible sick day. No one really counted the PTO days people took so there was wiggle room, but only for the office employees–we had a manufacturing side fand I guess those folks just got hardly any time off.

    One thing I thought of was whether some people might have many repeat miscarriages causing them to miss large amounts of time, but it seems that is very rare. That’s not a reason to not have miscarriage leave, but I was curious as to whether it could theoretically be an issue and it appears that is extremely unlikely.

    I’d love to know the maternity leave policy at this organization…it’s safe to say it is not great.

    1. Stephanie*

      My second job had 10 vacation days and two sick days annually. Man, it was a Petri dish there — if you didn’t want to lose pay, you just had to come to work sick. But this was 11 years ago. I’m surprised in this (post?)-COVID era a company would still have this stingy of a sick leave policy…

      1. Chirpy*

        I mean, my job only begrudgingly went up to 3 days sick leave “post”-covid. We had zero before.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        Unfortunately, I’m not at all surprised. I saw so many employers (not mine, thankfully) treat COVID like some kind of conspiracy “those lazy bums” came up with as an excuse not to work.

      3. Learn ALL the things?*

        In my experience, COVID changed very little about how companies care for their employees.

        1. Anonymouse*

          Some organizations did step up! Mine created a COVID leave bank of 3 weeks which could be used for getting tested, getting vaccinated, recovering from COVID, caring for someone recovering from COVID, or caring for kids when childcare was closed. (This was in addition to a pretty generous PTO policy to begin with.)

          After the peak of the pandemic passed, our union got the whole 3 weeks added to our sick bank, and also successfully lobbied for a separate “caregiver leave” benefit.

      4. RussianInTexas*

        Post covid, 10 days vacation, 4 sick days, one per quarter.
        But at LEAST some of us work from home.

    2. Windsorite*

      10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages. For many women, if they have one, it will just be the one — but multiple miscarriages are more common than you are assuming. I had five, including one that required a hospital stay and a fair bit of time off work.

      1. Stuart Foote*

        Understood…I was thinking in terms of a scenario where a woman has like four miscarriages in a year, which is extremely rare (1% according to what I found). Obviously over time many women will have more than one (including some people in my family).

  14. Nia*

    I’ve never worked for a nonprofit, would going to the board help or would that be just as useless as me taking a complaint about the CEO to HR?

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      It depends. One CEO never cared about how much contact the staff had with the BOD, but another forbade ANY contact with the BOD unless she gave permission first and she rarely did.

      1. CzechMate*

        Yeah, going over the CEO or ED’s head to the Board can be like a nuclear option (and, honestly, the Board may not even care about the daily operations of the org–they may even reach out to the ED/CEO and say, “Hey, why is your staff saying this to me?”). I’ve seen two instances where someone anonymously going to the Board has resulted in an ED being fired or quitting under duress, so it’s definitely not something one does lightly.

        1. Observer*

          I’ve seen two instances where someone anonymously going to the Board has resulted in an ED being fired or quitting under duress, so it’s definitely not something one does lightly.

          Honestly, in this case, I don’t think that this is a bad outcome. The ED is a terrible boss in general. And she’s actively working in direct opposition to the mission of the organization.

          the Board may not even care about the daily operations of the or

          Sure, good boards tend to stay out of day to day operations. That’s generally not their job. The thing is though, that it *IS* their job to supervise the ED. And the issue presented here is not just minor. It’s a policy issue, which they might be a bit more interested in. But more importantly, it’s about the ED’s *attitude*, about an issue that lies at the heart of the mission as well as its ability to maintain good and engaged staff.

          So, I think that it’s quite possible that a good Board would act on this. No guarantees, and also no guarantees that the Board is any good, of course.

    2. Zona the Great*

      Once I had an undeniable paper trail showing my boss was stealing from the organization. Board chair threatened to tattle on me for going around my boss. Could be that chair was in cahoots but more likely he just didn’t care.

    3. Anny*

      As others have said, it depends on the board – but at a healthy nonprofit, there should be a policy about such things. At mine, if someone has a complaint about the Executive Director (me) they’re explicitly told in the policy to go to the board, because the board is the ED’s boss.

      In this case, my board would have my head if I tried to pull something like this – we are also a nonprofit that serves families and emphasizes mothers and children. I have a great board and a great relationship with them, but this might well get me fired for how out-of-touch it is with our core mission and values. (I’ve had 3 miscarriages myself and I would never do this, but, you know, hypothetically.)

  15. Bi One, Get One*

    Addressing the low amount of leaves, my spouse works the kitchen at a grocery store and gets four weeks of leave a year. There’s something seriously obscene here that professional office workers at your job, presumably college graduates, are getting less leave than someone in food service who has a GED.

    1. ZSD*

      I would say that everyone, regardless of their level of education, deserves adequate sick and vacation time from work!

    2. blah*

      I think I get the point you’re trying to make, but bringing in education level seems off to me – someone with a GED inherently deserves less leave time than someone with a college degree?

      1. WellRed*

        No of course not, but it seems to be very common that those roles often attract people without a college degree and have fewer benefits.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          Rather than education, perhaps a better measure would be skilled vs unskilled work. I think that some jobs do, and should, give more time off as compensation for physically, emotionally, or intellectually difficult jobs — both as an incentive to hire for work that is maybe not the most desirable otherwise, and also for those that do the work, more time to recover so that they can continue to work.

          While it may seem like education level is a good marker to determine whether a job is skilled or unskilled, there are highly-skilled jobs that don’t require any college (trades or manufacturing come to mind but certainly there’s others).

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              I don’t agree — stuffing envelopes, twirling a sign, handing out flyers — there’s plenty of unskilled jobs.

              1. Rainy*

                I’ve seen expert sign twirlers, and let me tell you, that is a skill. Could I learn it? Yes, I could–I took hoop dancing classes for a couple of years, and I was pretty good by the end, but I also got super banged up the first few times I started learning a new trick.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              “Unskilled” is the standard term for a job that requires no previous training. Obviously someone who has 5 years of experience waiting on tables is far more skilled than someone with 3 months experience, but both received on-the-job training rather than getting a certificate, degree or apprenticeship.

            3. Hrodvitnir*

              I tend not to belabour this point when I know what they mean, but certainly the concept of “unskilled” labour tends to show an impressive lack of understanding of how much skill is required in these jobs.

              Frankly, pretty much anything can be done exceptionally well or poorly with more impact than anyone is willing to appreciate. I have worked with many more competent people in retail than I went through university with – and even saw do Masters programmes, despite their bare interest throughout our degree.

      2. samwise*

        I think the point is that people with lower education levels often end up in jobs that have terrible or no benefits.

    3. bamcheeks*

      This is a really upsetting point of view to me! Why do professional office workers deserve more recognition of their human and personal lives than grocery store workers? That should be a right, not a privilege you earn by going to college.

      1. Chirpy*

        This, I recently found out my company gives 4 weeks vacation to office workers at 10 years, but only 3 weeks to retail workers at 10 years.

        Corporate’s response to the Q&A forum where this question was brought up was “this is reasonable and we won’t consider looking into it further.” I can tell you it definitely dampened a few long-term employees’ morale to find out.

      2. Flor*

        If anything, I’d argue people working in jobs like in a kitchen at a grocery store ought to have more paid leave than many office workers do, because in a lot of office jobs (not all, but many) it’s fine to take a long lunch or be a bit early/late because of an appointment, or work from home because the boiler is being repaired or you’re recovering from a cold, whereas in a job that requires you to be on-site and needs coverage you have to take time off for that.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “If anything, I’d argue people working in jobs like in a kitchen at a grocery store ought to have more paid leave than many office workers do”

          Hard agree!! I’ve done retail/restaurant/child care work as well as much more highly paid “professional” work in offices. By far, food services, retail, sanitation work and the like is WAY harder (in my opinion). If anything, the more my salary has increased, the easier work has gotten. By far!

    4. Hrodvitnir*

      I get that what you’re likely referring to is that within a cultural paradigm where office jobs *do* get more leave, it’s impressively bad these people are at half the leave of a grocery worker.

      But I also strongly agree with the other comments that that norm is horrendous. IME the relationship between how challenging a job is (physical, social – working with the public is *hard*, or mental – where there is actually a lot of specialised work required) and how much respect it’s given is approximately backwards.

      1. Bi One Get One*

        As a part time retail cashier myself I don’t disagree, I just lived my whole life being told if I wanted better I should have finished college and found an office job. I just sort of expect that going deeply into debt for an education should pay off in both income and benefits and it’s upsetting to see when it doesn’t.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “I just sort of expect that going deeply into debt for an education should pay off in both income and benefits and it’s upsetting to see when it doesn’t.”

          Here’s the thing: you’re assuming that everyone with a college degree invested their own money and worked really hard for it, but oftentimes that’s not the case. Many kids half-ass their way through college, powered mostly by middle-class expectation and privilege, and in the end, it’s just 4 years of not having to get a “real” job. You can get a college degree with fairly unspectacular grades.

          Why should that person (i.e. me) be paid more and have more vacation for the rest of their life?

          1. Chirpy*

            And, those of us who got degrees but it didn’t lead to a “good” job get stuck with the “punishment” anyway. Low wage jobs aren’t “lesser” they’re just usually more physical and/or skills that can be taught on the job. Those jobs should have equal or *more* vacation since you’re often destroying your body working them.

            Every job deserves a living wage and good benefits with vacation time.

  16. tiredworkingmom*

    I’ve had two miscarriages, one at 10 weeks and one at 14, while working at different companies. Both required outpatient procedures, doctor’s visits, and left me traumatized. One company handled it beautifully and gave me plenty of PTO time to handle as I saw fit, along with flex time for follow-up appointments. The second was horrific–emailing me on a Sunday with non-urgent work matters after I’d taken medical leave and demanding response. This company can do better and should do better.

  17. HannahS*

    So this director completely absurd, obviously.

    From a practical perspective, in my job (and I’m a physician) miscarriage is under medical leave; the process for someone who miscarries is to call in sick and have their doctor/care provider sign a note for time off to recover, physically and emotionally.

    Personally–and I realize that not every one feels the same–I consider pregnany loss to be different from traditional bereavement, because it happens to your body. There’s a layer of (sometimes) physical and (sometimes) trauma and recovery that requires a different kind of support. Medical leave tends to be better defined, more flexible, and better compensated than bereavement leave, which is why we cover pregnancy loss with medical leave.

    1. WellRed*

      Thanks for this. It does seem as though bereavement leave isn’t the best fit but I couldn’t articulate why. Compasssionate and flexible time off is the way to go.

    2. KGD*

      This makes sense to me. For me personally, my miscarriage felt like both loss and illness – I was in pain, in the hospital, having tests etc, and grieving at the same time. I think there several reasonable ways to deal with this as a company, but denying time off altogether is not one of them.

    3. Double A*

      This is exactly where I land on this.

      Bereavement leave is not meant as “This is all the time you will need to mourn and be functional again leave.” It’s literally leave that you can take at the last minute, separate from any other bucket, in the even you need it for essentially funeral arrangements. That’s why we don’t really give it for pets. And that’s why it doesn’t really make sense for miscarriages.

      The problem is not that this company doesn’t offer bereavement for miscarriages; it’s that they don’t have adequate sick time and PTO for someone to deal with a medical emergency and that they don’t deal compassionately with medical emergencies. I think the fight over bereavement leave obscures this.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      It’s important to keep in mind that the one carrying the baby isn’t the only one grieving the loss, though. A non-pregnant partner/parent should also be able to take leave.

      1. Sparkle Llama*

        At least in my state I can use my sick time to care for my partner so I could use it for care for a partner with a miscarriage.

        I am in a seemingly unique boat that all of my employers have had bereavement policies that you use sick time for the specific number of days. I think this is partially the industry standard because we tend to have generous sick leave with huge roll over potential. I have 7 weeks accrued after 5 years and am sick an above average amount.

        1. doreen*

          Not quite unique – my last employer did not offer any additional bereavement leave , but allowed you to take up to 15 sick days per year for bereavement. (could be for one event, could be for 15, could be to go to a friend’s funeral). I preferred that to a previous employer which provided additional bereavement leave for specified relationships but only a couple of days per occurrence.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      Bereavement leave is often time for the funeral, travel to the service, and legal tasks that need to be done, not actual grieving time. So in general, I’d agree that sick time is often (not always) the more reasonable option. But that’s also if you have a decent amount of sick time, which the OP does not have.

      I only get 1-3 days of bereavement, but I do have 5 days of regular sick, and more if needed (but coded differently), not lumped in with vacation time.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      I upvote this comment. I did think that if the organization provided a decent amount of sick leave that miscarriage could be handled under that for both the physical and emotional recovery.

      Not that people recover from the emotional loss quickly, but they get to a point that they’re mentally recovered enough to go into the office and work.

    7. Devious Planner*

      Agreed, and in a well-run company, it wouldn’t really matter. You’d give employees enough sick days to truly cover them, along with bereavement leave, and then you can let your employees decide for themselves how to categorize it. Pregnant employees might choose to use sick days during the actual miscarriage, and both parents might choose to take bereavement leave. Or they might choose not to take bereavement leave, especially if it’s early and they don’t want to share that information with their employer. Just trust your employees to make a reasonable decision and give them choices.

    8. Pretty as a Princess*

      I think one point of including pregnancy loss in bereavement leave is to have a paid leave option available to a pregnant person’s non-birthing partner, which is missing when covering under medical leave.

      I don’t like anything about the US medical, maternity, and paid leave systems at all. But I do think that leave for pregnancy loss that is not tied to a note from your doctor is a good thing to include at places that have separate bereavement leave. (When you have unlimited PTO things change, but most of us in the US aren’t in that situation.)

    9. Fíriel*

      Practically I think having more medical leave and including it under that makes much more sense. In many ways they could have avoided this entire debate (or at least the disastrous consequences it’s having for employees!) if the company’s overall policies were more reasonable

    10. allathian*

      Thanks for this!

      I think that everyone who’s suffered a pregnancy loss is entitled to compassion from their manager and coworkers. But given that bereavement leave for the death of a loved one is usually granted so that the person can (help) organize the funeral or travel to the funeral, etc., I’m not sure that bereavement leave is the right “bucket” of leave to use.

      I’ve had two first-trimester miscarriages. The first was essentially a very heavy period (at 9 weeks, but the fetus had no doubt died earlier) where I was physically unfit to work because I had to get a new heavy night pad so often (every 30 minutes or so for the first day), never mind my mental state.

      The second miscarriage was discovered during the early pregnancy ultrasound scan when they realized that there was no heartbeat. I got medication to expel the embryo and I was very lucky not to need a D and C.

      In both cases, I got a week of sick leave but no bereavement leave. My husband took a day’s vacation (in Finland, both of us have plenty compared to most employees in the US) even if he could’ve taken a day or two of sick leave to support me.

      1. doreen*

        But given that bereavement leave for the death of a loved one is usually granted so that the person can (help) organize the funeral or travel to the funeral, etc., I’m not sure that bereavement leave is the right “bucket” of leave to use.

        That really sort of depends – the first time I was pregnant was a twin pregnancy . I lost one at about nine weeks and the other just at the dividing line between miscarriage and stillbirth. They were very different experiences , and the second involved labor, delivery and making arrangements with a funeral home. (although I chose not to have an actual funeral).

        1. HannahS*

          What a rude comment. I shared what my workplace does as an example of what is done in some settings. allathian did the same. As it happens, I’m not American either. Bereavement leave versus medical leave in the setting of pregnancy loss is not an exclusively American issue.

  18. Lady_Blerd*

    Dear lord! I work in an org that is 70% male and we actually have bereavement for miscarriages and I have seen it approved for a woman. Actually not approved since she didn’t request it, it was simply given to her once her higher ups learned of her loss, probably when she went to a hospital.

  19. No touchy!*


    My jaw is somewhere in the basement and my eyebrows are raised out of the chimney.

    LW, definitely push back on this. Your ED is an insensitive ass.

    1. Banana Pyjamas*

      Yep, I would say push back as a group, using the new state law as a baseline.

  20. techie*

    I realize that there are people in the world who would lie about miscarrying to abuse a policy, but how insulting that the ED assumes they have a staff full of those people.

    1. New laptop who dis*

      Seriously! I feel like people that assume horrible intent of everyone around them must be really horrible people themselves, to think that other people would automatically take the worst possible path.

    2. SBT*

      Right?! But also must mean she doesn’t think she hires well. If you DO have a whole company of people abusing systems, lying, doing the bare minimum, then you’re obviously the problem as you have no idea how to hire.

    3. Your Mate in Oz*

      I read it as projection. My real question is exactly what the director does that she feels would be utterly unacceptable if everyone did it.

  21. Jane Bingley*

    This is infuriating, and I wanna address the questions she’s raised in case you’re interested in pushing back on her terms.

    • How do we define this? A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that occurs after a positive pregnancy test and before 20 weeks from last menstrual period.
    • From the moment it starts? Or is it at this point a medical condition? A miscarriage is an ongoing event and a potentially serious medical event. It begins when the pregnant person or their doctor realizes the pregnancy is ending.
    • Do we consider for all the time it last? Once is over, then bereavement starts? This question is largely irrelevant; simply decide on a reasonable number of days to offer (I’d suggest 3) and let people decide how they want to take them. If a person has an extended miscarriage and requires medical/FMLA leave, that’s a separate issue.
    • Do we require medical statements? How do we manage this time? No, and the same you handle any unexpected time off, respectively.
    • Do people need to report they are pregnant? By when? Is this a HIPPA problem? No, no, and no.
    • It is the same to miscarriage at one month of pregnancy as at three or six months? A miscarriage occurs anywhere between a positive pregnancy test and 20 weeks. After 20 weeks, it’s a stillbirth. I would recommend having a general pregnancy loss policy.
    • People have asked for bereavement for pets, they say they are family to them. Do we include this as well? We already made bereavement more flexible. Miscarriage and pets are different situations. It’s up to you as exec director to decide on these separately.

    1. Antilles*

      The list of questions is pure what-aboutism to just get you to give up. She doesn’t actually care about the answer, she just wanted a bunch of Complex Sounding Questions to stick with what she’s already decided.

      You know how I know? Because all those questions have already been resolved by others! Because a few minutes of Google could get you some guidance on the answers. And also because several items on the list could be answered with “meh, let’s handle it the exact same way we’d handle deaths of already-born family children”.

      1. Rose*

        Strongly agree! The way she just throws very obvious, easy to answer, and often insulting questions out there and think’s she’s doing something is wild. The trickiest of these has easily google-able answers.

  22. BBB*

    this company sucks and this is absolutely indicate of a larger problem. you might be able to force her hand by arguing as a group, but the underlying issue of ‘this director doesn’t give a shit about employees as people’ will always remain.

    also, your pto allowance sucks. don’t let this woman gaslight you into believing 12 days is over the top generous.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      At an old job, the CEO was sooooooo cheap despite heading a very lucrative organization. (He certainly didn’t live cheaply himself.)

      CEO wanted the health insurance plan administered in house to save money like AOL did. That meant he got to pick what was covered and what wasn’t. He only wanted to cover people when they were sick so no preventative care at all. A breast exam wasn’t covered because “women can do that themselves.” A UTI (lab work and Rx) weren’t covered until the person went septic.

      We women did the math and realized we could get better health care on a sliding scale with Planned Parenthood. When we tried to opt out of health insurance, HR said we had to provide proof of alternate health insurance as we weren’t allowed to go without.

      Only in America!

      1. Observer*

        Actually, I’m pretty sure that HR had no idea what they were doing, because even self-insurance has some rules about what is covered. And even in states with skimpy requirements, his list would not fly.

      2. Hrodvitnir*

        I hope it stays that way – I am watching us slide toward privatised healthcare in Aotearoa, and I can only beg the universe for it not to end up tied to your bloody job.

        The USA sure isn’t unique in terrible people running businesses, there’s just fun new ways to get you!

        Wishing a functioning society for all of us.

  23. A Significant Tree*

    That list from the ED is just looking for reasons to say no, including the what-about-ism of the pets question. The ED clearly doesn’t understand how people can’t fit their lives into the grudgingly expanded (to just above the lowest level) PTO, and seems to have the attitude that her employees are out to take advantage wherever they can.

    It’s not clear that anything but a mass exodus will have an impact, and even that would probably just result in “nobody wants to work anymore!” complaints rather than a reassessment of current practices.

  24. Hyaline*

    So at first while reading I was willing to suspend judgment and say, “Ok if they have plenty of PTO and a very flexible sick time/paid medical leave policy that would allow for adequate care medically and emotionally for a miscarriage, maybe it doesn’t need to be included in bereavement (which often is/has often been used to cover for travel, making funeral arrangements, etc., so I can see a mindset of bereavement being not for loss but for logistics).” But 12 days total and no real medical/sick leave to speak of? And including the holidays in there as though that has any bearing on the conversation of needing to take time for a medical or family event–uh, I guess if you’re going to be very ill or have a miscarriage, you’d better do it over a long holiday weekend? No, this company needs a hard reset on ALL its PTO and leave policies.

  25. ZSD*

    Well, you have 11 paid holidays. Clearly the employee should have scheduled her miscarriage for the day before Thanksgiving.

    (Sarcasm, in case that isn’t clear)

    1. Ruby Soho*

      I had a miscarriage on New Years Day. Good to know I would have had the holiday to recover lol

  26. spititout*

    This is one of those things you hope go viral and makes national news along with the mailing address and name of the executive director and the board so they can all be buried in snail mail.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Your ED is a jerk. That said, I think miscarriage might be better suited to medical leave, since it will involve a medical process for many (even if that’s a day or two of staying home and feeling lousy). Bereavement leave is usually intended to cover travel or logistics, not grief, and a day or two would be completely inadequate to cover grieving for many losses including pregnancy loss. You may be better off pushing for more sick/medical leave than for expanded bereavement leave.

  27. AGS*

    Officially, my office gives 10 days sick time per year. In practice, especially with Covid, we’ve been given unlimited sick time. To my knowledge, this policy hasn’t been abused by anyone. Given that, I used sick time for my miscarriage because I had to have a D&C to complete the miscarriage. So I had a 2 day wait to have the procedure and then I ended up taking a couple of days off afterwards – I guess that could have been considered my bereavement time? I was recovered from the surgery and could have gone back to work but I wasn’t ready to. I was told to take the time I needed and just call the days “sick time.”
    In terms of bereavement – that doesn’t come out of our PTO. And there isn’t a limit on that either. My company has many flaws but they are compassionate.

  28. Jennifer Strange*

    I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. I didn’t even know the gender of my baby, let alone have a name for them. But I still grieved for them the same as I did for other family members who have died. Not allowing someone even minimum leave to deal the emotional (not to mention physical!) trauma of this is cruel.

    1. Wolf*

      Yeah, it sounds like OP’s ED is completely unaware of the physical processes behind a miscarriage. This isn’t some “take a midol and bring a hot water bottle” period pain, it’s a rather serious (and sometimes dangerous) event.

  29. Person from the Resume*

    I am so distracted by the terrible, terribly low amount of combined PTO (vacation and sick), I don’t put lack of bereavement leave for miscarriage as the highest priority that needs fixing with the LW’s organization’s time off policy.

    But, yeah, give people who have a miscarriage bereavement leave. Since you are being so so stingy with PTO, people who were pregnant probably need this because they don’t have enough combined sick/vacation time.

    Also, yes, people do need to understand what (how many) holidays they get off, but don’t include that in any discussion about people’s time off. They should get the holidays PLUS a lot more than your organization is providing.

  30. Snarkus Aurelius*

    In times line these, I find an anonymous tip to multiple reporters always helps. Jezebel is known for uncovering horrific HR practices such as this one.

    If your boss is so confident that she’s right, then she can let the press, the BOD, and the rest of the public know that.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      Even a small local company pulling this (and having it reported on) would impact their local standing, as it should.

    2. nutella fitzgerald*

      I had this exact thought. I would never want to recommend this organization as a resource to anyone if I knew they had a barbaric policy like this for their own employees.

  31. PlainJane*

    This is absurd. A miscarriage should be an automatic bereavement leave. How can you function at work like that? I think the person who is grieving should decided when she needs bereavement leave.

    (Frankly, I don’t understand why a couple days after the death of a beloved pet is so far beyond the pale. I had to use three days of vacation time after my cat died because I was crying at the drop of a hat, which would not have been feasible in my public facing position.)

    1. FricketyFrack*

      Yeah, acting like it would be crazy for someone to be off work after losing a pet is just another way this person sucks. No, it’s not the same as losing a human family member, or having a miscarriage, and in orgs where there’s adequate leave, it probably wouldn’t even come up. People would just take a day or two of vacation. But at a place that believes 12 days is enough to “take care of their lives,” that’s probably not an option. Maybe they SHOULD allow bereavement leave for pets, in addition to allowing it for a miscarriage.

      1. PlainJane*

        Yes, I’m lucky that we have a generous vacation policy. If we didn’t, I’d have been trying to do storytime and sing cheerful little ditties while mourning the loss of a companion of ten years and two states.

        I suppose I’m not sure why they’re being so stingy with people who are grieving. They aren’t going to be helpful or productive at work, so the workplace is not losing anything by giving them a little bit of time to breathe after a loss. (And honestly, it shouldn’t matter if the workplace would be losing a minor bit of productivity. Be human and have a heart.)

      2. Pretzel*

        I just recently approved a day of bereavement leave for an employee who lost a beloved pet. It was a non-issue, and I was glad to be able to support them in that way. My company’s policy also deliberately doesn’t draw lines around who “counts” as a close relative, with the understanding that people have unique relationships and family structures and cultural contexts. It’s fine. People take the time they need, when they need it.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I disagree in that at companies with DECENT sick leave available the person can use that for a miscarriage and not use bereavement leave at all for this.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        They could use sick leave or bereavement. Both would be valid. Also, their partner may need bereavement leave.

  32. CheesePlease*

    Will also just say that bereavement leave is already so paltry in this country

    If someone abuses bereavement leave, they are a shitty person and you shouldn’t have hired them. We should give more than a standard 3-5 days (DAYS!!) for the loss of a family member (INLCUDING A SPOUSE OR A CHILD!!) But at the very least, it is a place where employers can be more generous. Death happens to all of us, and you will retain good employees by treating them kindly.

    However, as Alison pointed out, an ED that believes that 11 holidays and 12 PTO days are generous and sufficient is wrong and unlikely to change. I worked at such a company and while PTO started at 10 days and increased with years of services, you needed 5 (!!) years of service to increase to 15 PTO days. This included sick days. Parental leave was unpaid. The president said this was fine but would say that he supported individuals who left for another job that allowed them to better care for their family if they needed that. Delusional, ignorant man. Your ED sounds similar. I’m sorry.

    I think you can push back. Option B has good resources for advocating for expanded bereavement leave that I will link below

    1. FricketyFrack*

      “Will also just say that bereavement leave is already so paltry in this country”

      YES. I got 3 days off after my younger sister very suddenly died when I was 26. The police called us and asked us to come in on a Friday afternoon and told us they found her body in a motel room after she overdosed, but hey, it’s the US, gotta be back at work by Thursday morning! My poor parents fortunately had more leave saved up and were able to take more time off, but I didn’t have a big PTO bank and couldn’t swing it.

      Even from the most craven, capitalist perspective, that’s a stupid policy. I was routinely having to stop what I was doing to sob in the bathroom, and my coworkers kept coming to check on me, so it was a loss of productivity all around. Giving people adequate bereavement leave makes sense from every angle, honestly.

      1. CheesePlease*

        I am so sorry for the loss of your sister. That must have been such a terrible, difficult experience.

        1. FricketyFrack*

          Thank you, it was. It was almost 14 years ago, so the loss is a little less sharp, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget just absolutely losing it in the bathroom and trying to stay quiet. That was not a good time and I’d like it a lot if we could make this country better for workers (and everyone else) so no one else has to do that.

  33. Flyaway*

    My employer sucks in this regard too. I had to tell my boss that our state requires her to give us a minimum number of sick days. I work full time and was given five paid sick days for the whole year. And yes, I’m on my way out.

  34. Green great dragon*

    Give her whatever definitions your state is using for state employees. That should answer all her questions.

  35. katydid*

    “When we upped the PTO, it was for employees to have enough time to take care of their lives when needed. That is not how people look at it.”

    What on earth does that last sentence mean?!

    1. Nia*

      It means that people (rightly) don’t want to use their paltry amounts of leave as sick days.

    2. Hyaline*

      Oh no are people using their PTO for frivolous things like vacations instead of solely “taking care of their lives”?

    3. Pretzel*

      It means people thought “great, more vacation,” when the intent was apparently for employees to instead use it for medical appointments, plumber’s visits, trips to the DMV, pressing personal obligations, etc. Which sure makes it sound like they’re nickel-and-dimeing people on flexibility around those kinds of things. Seems like a nightmare workplace.

    4. BestBet*

      I’m guessing she means that people want to use their PTO for vacations or other enjoyable things occasionally instead of keeping it only for emergencies or illnesses like it sounds like she expects.

  36. That Crazy Cat Lady*

    A note on generous leave policies:

    One of the most common push-backs I see from employers to providing more leave/PTO/vacation/etc. to employees is, “But what about the people who will abuse it? What will we do then?”

    I think this is a total BS reason that doesn’t hold water. Are there people that will lie and abuse the policy? Yes, they exist, and you may even have one or two of those people in your company. But those people should be handled on a case-by-case basis (like Alison says above) and treated as the exception and not the norm.

    But it seems like employers want to assume that people who will lie/steal time, etc. are the norm without having any evidence whatsoever to back that up. It’s like saying, “I’ve managed you all for months now and I know you’re fantastic employees, I just happen to think you’ll start cheating the system the second that I give you an ounce more leeway.”

    So you end up punishing good employees for what one or two rogue employees *might* do. And that’s a big might!

    And if you do happen to have a staff full of employees who would cheat you, well, you haven’t done a very good job in hiring a good staff. You should prioritize hiring people with integrity and looking out for red flags. If you do, you will rarely have to deal with problems like this. Not never, because it won’t be perfect all the time, but rarely.

    1. Bird names*

      I suspect that someone like that heavily projects onto others.
      As seen by the very stingy PTO they are happy to basically squeeze their employees dry and assume that the employees would be equally brazen given half a chance. You would of course need to completely ignore the existing power differential and several other factors that make this scenario wildly unlikely…

  37. H.Regalis*

    That is so awful and cruel, and even more galling given the mission of your nonprofit.

    Definitely push back as a group. If that doesn’t work, see if you talk to a reporter if the ED digs in her heels. This would make a great rage-bait story, and she’d deserve all the ire she’d get.

    1. Sick leave*

      This workplace sucks, but I feel like improving medical leave would handle the situation, particularly for early miscarriages.

      Otherwise if you have a policy that allots certain days for certain relationship losses you’re going to have the unenviable position ranking someone’s embryo in comparison to a partner or parent.

        1. Nix*

          Bereavement leave sometimes gives a different number of days based on the relationship (more days for loss of a parent/child, fewer days for a sibling/cousin). I don’t think anyone wants to be in the position to judge how a pregnancy loss compares to the loss of a family member in order to choose the right number of days to allow

          1. Pretzel*

            We shouldn’t be quantifying which relationships deserve more or less bereavement leave, though, right? Maybe my biological parent dies, but we were estranged and I don’t want or need a lot of time off. But a close family friend dies, who I was extremely close with and who raised me and was essentially a parent—shouldn’t a bereavement policy allow generous leave for something like that? Likewise, pregnancy loss encompasses a HUGE range—it can be at a few weeks or it can be a stillbirth, it can be a deeply wanted pregnancy or one that someone feels ambivalent about, it can be physically traumatic or not, it can be part of a psychologically devastating fertility journey or not, it can be a first and only event or one of many. The best thing would be a policy that understands that grief is a highly variable and deeply personal thing and have a generous and flexible policy that covers ALL bereavement and allows people to treat it on a case-by-case basis.

            1. WellRed*

              The difference being, as Alison said time and again, bereavement leave is also about logistics. It may not be the same for everyone, but there are some relationships where you are responsible for all the business of death, others where you show up at the funeral.

              1. allathian*

                And some relationships where there is no funeral at all. Generally there’s no funeral for early miscarriages simply because there’s nothing to bury. Stillbirths and late miscarriages where the fetus looks obviously human are generally a different story, although that can depend on the parents and their religious affiliation, if any. Some churches won’t perform funerals for stillborn babies although they will do it if the baby lived long enough for an emergency baptism at the hospital.

                In *law* an unborn child doesn’t count as a person (no matter what some pro lifers may say), they don’t have a name or social security number, and there’s no death-related bureaucracy to deal with.

              2. Pretzel*

                Yes, my point is that real-life relationships don’t always fit the neat lines that HR tries to draw around these things. Maybe I’m planning the funeral for that family friend, but not for that estranged parent—if that’s the case, it’s not actually helpful to have a leave policy that says [x] days for a loved one, but [x+3] days (or whatever) for a parent.

    1. La Triviata*

      There’s one of those one-person dialog Tik-Toks going around where a woman is dealing with a boss who doesn’t understand that she takes an hour (unpaid) for lunch rather than eating at her desk like everyone else; why she wants a day off; why she may not be available for unpaid overtime; and so on.

  38. Deanna*

    My intial responce in my head to this question would have gotten me banned here for language! The ED is hypocritical and delusional. I’m not a woman who has ever wanted kids but I do have friends who have suffered miscarriages before being successful in having kids. Asking people to define when they got pregnent and then had a miscarriage/stillbirth just to have some days off is really cold and vile to me

  39. Double A*

    I think we’ve once again run into the issue of calling it “Bereavement” leave, as if the time you’re given is supposed to be about mourning and when it’s done you’re good to go. Of course you will be mourning, but it seems to me the purpose of bereavement leave is logistical — it is essentially to give you a few days, that don’t have to come out of any other bucket of leave, to deal with the logistics of the death of an independent person. Basically, you’ll have time for some paperwork and funeral arrangements. It would make more sense to call it “Funeral leave.”

    If you think of it as funeral leave, that’s why it doesn’t inherently make sense for miscarriages or pets. A miscarriage can obviously be an emotional event (it isn’t always), but it’s not the death of an independent person. (This is as distinct from a still birth, which is the death of a baby that was developed enough to theoretically survive independently). The logistics you’ll need to deal with are medical, and a compassionate workplace should be accommodating of medical emergencies.

    Now, your boss is being a huge dick about this. And honestly, just allowing for bereavement leave for miscarriages is such an easy thing to do that costs the company so little, they should just do it. But really this is distracting from their terrible leave overall and the fact that they are obviously not compassionate about medical emergencies. That is the deeper problem with your company.

    1. PlainJane*

      The logistics may be part of it, but it’s also a way of giving people time to get their emotional response… well, not under control, but to a place where the waves of grief are manageable. You could think of it as a particular kind of sick leave, I suppose–a case where someone is simply not able to function in a work capacity because of factors outside of their control.

    2. Minimal Pear*

      I do think a day for a pet makes sense with the logistics stuff, since you might be getting the pet put down, so you need to take some time for that appointment.

    3. Anon for this one*

      Yeah I had a similar conversation with my company. My father died, I found out around lunchtime and all I got was “you’ll still be in the planning meeting this afternoon won’t you?” (and I was), and there was no bereavement leave because I wasn’t going to the funeral because it was a busy time and they couldn’t give me the time off (bit of a circular argument that one), but I think it depends on whether you’re in favour with management as someone in a similar role was off for 2 weeks after their father-in-law died.

  40. Kpop Adult*

    As soon as someone shouts “HIPPA” violation, you know they have no clue what HIPAA is.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      I know right? Off-topic, but this reminds me of a time while working with an all-volunteer group, we sent out a form to all the volunteers to ask about any medical issues or allergens we should be aware of in case something happened while they were working our event as well as emergency contact info. We also buy meals/snacks for volunteers so getting this info helps us cover all the diet bases. The information is voluntary and not required. Some people are very upfront about their needs, others don’t share if it isn’t relevant. Anyway, the guy we asked to send out this form and gather the data decided afterwards that all that info was protected by HIPAA and he can’t share it back with the organizers. We fought over it for years until he finally left the organization. We also got very lucky nothing happened those years where that info would be needed (but I did have a few people complain that year after year they share their info and feel their needs have been ignored). No one was suggesting sharing this info publically, just with leadership on a need-to-know basis.

    2. TKC*

      I was gonna say, as soon as I saw “HIPPA” I knew she sucked.

      How does an executive director have no clue HIPAA doesn’t apply to her? Is she just wandering around all day hoping she doesn’t violate it since she both seems to think it applies to her but also doesn’t understand what the acronym even means much less what the law requires?

  41. Cat Tree*

    I think a lot of managers are just jerks about people getting something new that they themselves didn’t always have. We also started bereavement leave, and it explicitly can be used for death of a pretty. One manager “joked” that she would by 10 goldfish and kill one each time she needed a day off. I would hate to have her as a manager when my beloved cat died.

    Some people are just bitter.

    FWIW, we have unlimited paid sick leave and a new policy of 25 vacation days for everyone. The guide for bereavement leave says that for a miscarriage, sick leave would be used during the physical aspect of it. Bereavement labs leave would then apply after physical recovery, if needed, or for someone whose partner has a miscarriage, including the time needed to go with the partner to medical appointments.

    1. Pretzel*

      I can feel my blood boiling about this. Outrageous. As someone who’s had a miscarriage myself, and who recently approved bereavement leave for an employee who lost a beloved pet, this is just unbelievably callous and miserly. Definitely a worst boss contender.

  42. Insert Pun Here*

    My employer, which gets a lot of things wrong, actually gets this right: if you miscarry or give birth to a stillborn child, you get the same amount of leave for physical recovery (this is a separate category from parental leave) as you do for giving birth to a live baby.

    It probably does require a doctor filling out some forms or whatever, but it’s a generous and compassionate policy.

  43. Ahnon4Thisss*

    “People have asked for bereavement for pets, they say they are family to them. Do we include this as well?”

    Uh, yes? Having a day or two off of bereavement when I lost my dog would have helped me immensely. Pets ARE family to most owners. You don’t need to give a wild amount of time, but couple days would be nice.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Pets ARE family to most owners.


      Very few people are as cold blooded as a certain MAGA governor when dealing with their pets. (I feel so WTF about that situation that I feel that woman should be locked up and evaluated for psychopathy.)

  44. Happy Employee*

    I remember when I had my second miscarriage, I called off work with very little explanation that day. My boss is awesome and when I spoke to him later that day (he could tell I was upset and was just checking in) I told him what happened and he told me to take the next day too and that they would be paid days without impacting my PTO… even though it was our busiest season.

    It was a little thing, but it meant the world to me and it’s part of a pattern of kindness that keeps me working here and going above and beyond for him.

  45. peakvincent*

    The way companies try to act like federal holidays as paid time off is a generous part of compensation always makes me so mad. You aren’t doing your employees a favor by closing for the 4th of July! I guess 11 paid holidays is better than 9? Congrats on incorporating President’s Day and Juneteenth, or something? But it simply isn’t something to brag about to close for federal holidays, and it bothers me so much when it gets listed as a benefit.

    1. Dawn*

      That’s pretty much invariably a sign of bosses who think that any time not spent working is unthinkable. At least amongst people who haven’t “earned” their level of employment.

    2. Laura*

      Yeah, especially because those days are the same day every year! I can’t bank them and tack them onto a vacation or use them if I’m out sick.

  46. Orange You Glad*

    The ED’s questions tell me they don’t seem to understand miscarriages or bereavement. The company doesn’t need to worry about any of the things on their list. If an employee says they are grieving, grant them whatever time off is necessary.

    I’m fortunate to work for a company that generally has very broad time off policies with pretty much everything up to manager discretion. Our bereavement policy outlines the time period granted (1-3 days I believe) and how to document the leave in our timesheet system, but otherwise doesn’t specify whose deaths it covers. We don’t care if it was your grandma, a close friend, a distant cousin, or your dog. If an employee appears to be abusing the policy, it’s on the manager to intervene and manage the situation.

    Whenever I have had someone come to me that they need to use our bereavement leave, I just give them the instructions no questions asked, and tell them to let me know if they need any more time at any time(because let’s face it, a day or two off for a funeral doesn’t end the grieving process).

    Also, while I wouldn’t hesitate to give someone time off to grieve a miscarriage, I think FMLA may also be an option if someone needs more time to recover both mentally and physically. The rules around that are also pretty well defined so again, we don’t need to know all the details of why the employee needs the time off.

  47. Be Kind*

    I lost my best friend of 20 years at the age of 32. My boss went to our higher ups to approve 2 days of bereavement for me, which I was not going to ask for because she was not blood related. They also sent a care package to me. OP is right to push back, especially given their organization.

  48. RedinSC*

    My heart is breaking for the employee having to work through her miscarriage.

    If I could I would donate sick leave to you. OMG, this is horrible.

  49. Fergus*

    I had a friend who miscarriaged at the end of her pregnancy. The child was still born. So no exceptions would be enough to find a job with no notice. no exceptions

  50. SPB*

    In my country (which has a 3 month mandatory paid maternity leave, with an addition optional 3 months), there are clear guideline for miscarriages as well. Up to a certain week of pregnancy you will get however many sick days the doctors feel are necessary, there a middle level where you get maternity leave, but a shorter one, but past a certain week (I think 24 or 27) you get the full maternity leave. There’s also get the same parental leave when adopting.

  51. Dawn*

    Heh, I remember when (many, many years ago, before I knew how to really advocate for myself,) I asked my managers to have a raise conversation (we were paid well below a living wage and were an essential government service) and my management responded with: “We already made you full-time this year, what more do you want?”

    Well, yes, after three years of promising it would happen. As one of your best performers. Earning well below a living wage for that whole time because I was trying to work my way up (which they also never followed through on.)

    I left the company shortly thereafter; they unsurprisingly folded the next year as they couldn’t retain anyone with any ability.

  52. Yellow*

    I went through 2 miscarraiges in the PUBLIC RESTROOM OF MY EMPLOYER. Thankfully I was able to leave work both times after it started, but this is a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not only was is a physical trauma, but I was an emotional mess. I can’t even remember if I went to work the next day in either case. To deny women of the right to deal with the physical and emotional trauma of this in the privacy of their own home should guarantee you a spot in hell.
    Either give them bereavement leave or enough PTO/sick time that they can heal from this at home.

    1. I'm great at doing stuff*

      I’m so sorry you experienced that.

      I was also thinking about physical healing time- I have known women who have had miscarriages and needed ample time to be able to physically work again.

      1. Dandylions*

        Yeah with a former employer I was harangued to return after a 16 week miscarriage. I told them I would not even consider returning until the hemoraging stopped. My miscarriage bleeding was so much worse then my healthy births’ was. I was put 11 days with it I believe.

    2. Emmy*

      And I think men too. My husband was devastated over our loss. He took good care of me and I needed him there.

  53. Hudson*

    OP, you’re absolutely right that many states are introducing or have enacted laws that provide three to five days of bereavement leave following a miscarriage. Some states go even further, allowing that bereavement leave to be taken after an unsuccessful fertility procedure, or when an adoption or surrogacy agreement falls through.

    A flag for people at more sympathetic companies: sometimes there’s a tendency to provide this leave for miscarriage and stillbirths. Stillbirths, by medical definition, happen at a later time in pregnancy, and the experience of a stillbirth can be comparable to giving birth. Ideally, people experiencing a stillbirth would be able to take MORE time to recover, and should be eligible for parental leave, rather than the five days of bereavement leave that most laws usually provide for them.

  54. DameB*

    OP: this is monstrous. I say that as someone who suffered a miscarriage.

    I have little to add other than to point out that it’s not like this in many other countries. I work for a European country and have got a coworker going through Some Major Family Stuff. My company has bent over backwards to make sure they’re supported in every possible way. The DAY they found out about it, they convened a team including their manager, their skip-level manager, and two HR people to make sure they are doing everything possible and to stretch any policies to cover their situation.

    At the same time, my husband is fighting tooth and nail to get even minimal benefits/compassion/support for one of the people he manages who is going through something similar.

  55. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

    It’s infuriating how merely granting more PTO (which could be used for any reason [a reason that need not be disclosed]) would eliminate the need for any hair-splitting from the director.

  56. Margaret Cavendish*

    *screams into the void*

    Thank you, Allison, for being much more articulate about this than I could be!

  57. ChemistryChick*

    I…honestly didn’t even think to ask for bereavement leave when I had my miscarriage. Thanks, patriarchy.

    OP, I hope you and your staff are able to push back on your ED and get something in place. Thank you for fighting for your people.

  58. Veryanon*

    When someone comes to me and says they need bereavement leave, I don’t ask questions; I explain what they’re entitled to take under our policy, and make sure they understand they have my sympathies. Do people abuse this? Sometimes, but not as often as you’d think. It would never occur to me to ask for a medical certification for someone who wanted to take bereavement leave for a miscarriage. That’s just so awful and grossly insensitive.

  59. Anita Brake*

    • From the moment it starts? Or is it at this point a medical condition? Question is unclear to me, but from the moment it becomes a miscarriage.

    • Do we consider for all the time it last? Once is over, then bereavement starts? I’m not sure what she’s asking here, but how about once the mother becomes aware there is no heartbeat, or once the mother becomes ill with symptoms, whichever comes first, as that is the time it becomes a crisis. Managers would, obviously, have to use judgment to decide a compassionate path moving forward.

    • Do we require medical statements? How do we manage this time? If you require medical statements regarding a deceased relative for an employee to use bereavement leave, then sure. If not, then it’s not fair to for a miscarriage.

    • Do people need to report they are pregnant? By when? Is this a HIPPA problem? I believe this would be a major HIPAA violation but I could be wrong.

    • It is the same to miscarriage at one month of pregnancy as at three or six months? Very early ‘missed ab’ miscarriages can sometimes be mistaken for a regular period. However, management would need to use compassion and judgement to figure out how to proceed in a compassionate manner.

    • People have asked for bereavement for pets, they say they are family to them. Do we include this as well? We already made bereavement more flexible. But how is it flexible if the loss of a pregnancy is not bereavement? Many people believe that ‘it’s a baby’ the moment the egg is fertilized. Pets? You can make that clear in the employee handbook. If you want to include pets, that is up to the company.

    We already give everyone 11 paid holiday days, plus a minimum of 12 days PTO (this is annual and sick combined) for those starting in the agency. When we upped the PTO, it was for employees to have enough time to take care of their lives when needed. That is not how people look at it. – Ok, but you also offer bereavement leave, and your questions relate to using bereavement leave for a miscarriage. I can tell you from the experiences of myself, a miscarriage makes parents bereaved (not to mention friends and family). Not only have you lost a child, you’ve lost all your hopes and dreams for that child. You may have a nursery to pack up while crying your eyes out. You most definitely have hormones from the pregnancy raging through your body if you’re the mother. Do you really want people at work when they’re feeling that way, without at least a couple days’ pay?

    1. Anita Brake*

      I got so incensed at the childish, whiny questions of the executive that I didn’t even read the whole post. I was wrong on the HIPAA thing, sorry.

  60. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    OT but I would love an update on the “my coworker is being a jerk about my bereavement leave” letter in the related links.

  61. WonderEA*

    This may have been mentioned earlier but California passed a law, effective 2024, for paid leave for reproductive loss, which includes miscarriage, stillbirth, failed IVF, and failed adoption. Senate Bill 848.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      It’s not paid, but it “makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse” the leave if it qualifies. Employees can use other paid leave (sick, vacation, etc.) accrued to receive pay for the bereavement leave.

  62. Office Plant Queen*

    The only companies that think of holidays as part of someone’s PTO compensation are the ones that are incredibly stingy about PTO. “We have 12 vacation/sick days plus 11 holidays, which is 23 days! That’s 4 and a half weeks, over a month! We have such generous leave already!” Ugh. You don’t get a pat on the back for giving people Thanksgiving off, when literally the only workplaces that don’t are essential services and particularly egregious retail chains.

    Honestly the only argument against bereavement leave for miscarriages is that you aren’t generally planning a service. But you probably still need a day or two to collect yourself. And frankly I don’t know what kind of work output someone would have in that situation, so you’re likely paying them to not really work anyway. May as well choose the option that makes them the least miserable and least likely to resent you for it

  63. SickLeave4All*

    It is always a red flag to me when an employer combines annual leave and sick leave. I have seen it implemented with an overall reduction in total leave days that is sold to employees as allowing those who don’t use much sick leave to have more leave. Employers don’t talk about the employees with chronic illness who are losing leave that they utilize and need.

    I describe sick leave as a form of insurance. Like all insurance, most employees use sick leave minimally or not at all. Employers (that offer good sick leave) offer more than the average employee needs knowing that most employees will not use all the days. This allows a larger amount of sick leave be available for the employees who need to use it due to a chronic illness, acute injury or illness at some point, or caring for a family member who needs care during work hours due to an injury or illness.

  64. Elizabeth West*

    You suck, OP’s upper management. You suck more than a springtime tornado in the Plains, EF5 level, with seven extra vortices.

    That really ticked me off.

  65. wine for cats*

    Just adding my two cents that is the most vile list of questions to push back I’ve ever read. Evil.

  66. pally*

    Compassion just isn’t a word in the exec director’s vocab.

    Sincerely hope she never has to deal with any kind of catastrophic event in her life.

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      Really? I am hoping the opposite — you are a much kinder soul than I am.

      ED candidate for worst boss of the year for sure.

      1. pally*

        Folks like this cannot handle a crisis.
        Please note: I’m not wishing bad things on those who CAN handle crisis, loss, etc. It’s just that bad things these folks do suffer tend to affect others in one way or another (for example: they let something fester until it affects someone else. Or they palm the crisis off onto others). I don’t think suffering a crisis becomes an event that causes them to become compassionate for others.

  67. Alex*

    This director is not only cruel, but….um…how do I say this kindly….a dumbass.

    How do we define this? We define it as a loss of a pregnancy.
    From the moment it starts? No, that would make no sense. We do not define bereavement time for a relative at the moment they drop dead, we define it as the moment the employee needs to be absent from work. Dumbass.
    Do we consider for all the time it last? Once is over, then bereavement starts? N/A see above answer. Dumbass.
    Do we require medical statements? How do we manage this time? No. Don’t be an asshole.
    Do people need to report they are pregnant? By when? Is this a HIPPA problem? No. We don’t need people to report they have relatives. Dumbass.
    It is the same to miscarriage at one month of pregnancy as at three or six months? As far as bereavement leave? Yes. In real life? Not really but that is irrelevant here.
    People have asked for bereavement for pets, they say they are family to them. Do we include this as well? We already made bereavement more flexible. Babies are not pets you dumbass.
    We already give everyone 11 paid holiday days, plus a minimum of 12 days PTO (this is annual and sick combined) for those starting in the agency. When we upped the PTO, it was for employees to have enough time to take care of their lives when needed. That is not how people look at it.
    That is because 12 days is a pittance compared to other companies and people will start looking for other work where the director doesn’t view them as whiny little children.

  68. ASGirl*

    My company offers ZERO bereavement leave. We get starting out 18 days of combined PTO and sick time, and 13 paid holidays. Oh, if you’re in your mid 40s with 20 plus years of experience you can’t negotiate for any extra paid time off even though you may be leaving a previous company where you had 4 weeks PTO, 13 Holidays and 2 weeks sick time.

  69. Immortal for a limited time*

    Aside from the warranted outrage at this manager’s cluelessness, it’s been almost 30 years since the HIPAA (not HIPPA!) law was passed. For the love of all things holy, shouldn’t we all know how to spell it by now?

  70. TKC*

    Why is she acting like bereavement leave for pets is some kind of slippery slope? YES give bereavement for pets. YES give it for miscarriages. YES give it for aunts and uncles someone is close to. I just don’t understand why a nonprofit of this nature would ever find it beneficial to force people to come into work without any time off for a serious loss.

    But then we are looking at a place who thinks 12 days of PTO total are appropriate. Where is the Board on this? They need to be pushing back on this stuff and pointing out that these limited leave policies disproportionately impact the very communities they purport to serve.

    1. TKC*

      Even if, say, one person in a decade grossly abuses this policy, if there’s a clear policy (like three or five days or something average-ish) there’s an upper limit of how many times someone’s going to be able to pull off this lie.

      So realistic worst case is you lose 9 days for one employee every decade MAYBE. Big whoop compared to actually being human to the staff who need this time and can use it when they need it. The ED is shortsighted for not being able to do this basic calculation.

  71. jasmine*

    I mean, is there anyone out there taking advantage of bereavement leave? I guess crazier things have happened but that’s pretty wild to me

    Also tbh if someone did want to take advantage, feels like the easiest thing to do would be to lie anyways

    1. Mid*

      Everyone loves to tout the stories they heard of that one coworker who had 9 grandparents die, but it seems akin to an urban legend more than a common occurrence. I know far more people who have had bereavement leave denied than anyone who has “abused” the policy. I have two different friends who have had to argue that while this person was technically their aunt, they were raised by this aunt for their entire life and consider them a parent, eff the legal definition, and both were denied time off. (Also, not even paid leave, unpaid leave without getting a write up for “missing” their shifts.)

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I hope so… and also same-sex partner/spouse.

    2. Lenora Rose*

      I would think it would make sense for the non-gestating partner. Even the idea they weren’t in hospital likely doesn’t wash; they probably spent hours there, if only holding their partner’s hand.

  72. starsaphire*

    There are many, many reasons for which I would crawl over hot coals for my current boss, but among those reasons is this: When my housemate/best friend unexpectedly passed, she encouraged me to take bereavement leave, and said she’d approve all the time I needed.

  73. Emmy*

    Having had both a miscarriage and a pet die, the answer is yes. we should include both.

  74. Bonkers*

    I really think bereavement leave is something that companies need to be as generous as possible with. I recently had a great-aunt pass away, who was very much like a grandmother to me – she literally raised my mother! But bereavement was denied because great-aunt isn’t in the list of eligible relations. It was not a good feeling, and it has definitely generated some lasting animosity on my end.

  75. IHaveKittens*

    I had a really horrendous experience with my miscarriage. Extreme blood loss, emergency D&C, almost bled to death in the OR. It took me weeks to recover, physically and emotionally (although that part took months). Fortunately, the law firm I was working for at the time never said a peep about the time I took off to heal. No urging to get back to work, no contact at all except some lovely flowers and some meals delivered to the house.

    I’m really sorry, OP. Your ED really does suck. I hope you can make some progress there to improve things.

  76. Lenora Rose*

    I’m currently gnashing my teeth at my own workplace for its occasional inflexibility over bereavement* but this takes the cake. I didn’t want leave over my miscarriage (I just wanted to explain why it was that my notice that i wasn’t making it in to work while in the hospital went slightly sideways) but I would absolutely understand someone who did.

    * First there was the “If you get five days of bereavement because the person is that close a relative, that includes the next five days whether those are traditional work days for you or not, so it always includes the weekend”, which everyone agreed is Not How Leave Works. That got shut down, but now a new one popped up: “It’s five days of bereavement, but you have to take it AT ONCE, except for one day for the memorial service if it’s over a week away. Oh, and ONE day, and one only, if you need to travel.” We have NUMEROUS staff whose immediate family live across the planet. And one day is a sadly low amount of time for travel arrangements back and forth for half of this continent, never mind other ones. If Justine wants to hang on and work through it now so she can actually have a proper funeral visit for her brother next month, I say compassion pretty much demands it (the name is not real but the example is.)

    1. semperfiona*

      I had a previous workplace that didn’t even offer that much. My grandmother died, which was covered under their bereavement policy, except that her memorial was held several months later because she died in one state but was buried across the country in a state where none of her surviving descendants lived. I was not allowed to use bereavement leave to travel to her memorial because it was not within the same week as the death.

      1. WellRed*

        Geezus! Even if everything is local, someone dying and the funeral being held the same week is a tall order!

  77. Zach*

    Chiming in to agree with the others about the PTO- 12 days PTO isn’t amazing, 12 days *combined* PTO and sick time is horrendous. It does not surprise me that executives who think that 12 days combined PTO is generous wouldn’t give bereavement leave for miscarriages.

    Honestly, this sounds like the common case of a nonprofit treating or paying people terribly and using “the mission” as an excuse.

    1. Noriko*

      Yeah for real. I spent years in the nonprofit sector and always had high PTO (like 4-5 weeks) which helped it remain appealing despite lower wages.

      If I hadn’t even gotten that? LOL. OP, you’re being mistreated in so many ways. Get out.

  78. HiddenC*

    Maybe I’ve just worked in the wrong industries/states, but I’ve never had more than the mandated minimum amount of PTO/sick leave at any job. Not in retail, not in any white collar job.

    1. Alex*

      As far as I understand, there is no mandated minimum for vacation time in the US. Some states have mandated minimum sick time. But there is a sort of understanding that 2 weeks is a minimum for most white-collar office type jobs, and to be competitive you need to offer more.

  79. RagingADHD*

    You take sick leave while you are having medical issues, and bereavement when you need time to emotionally process your bereavement. Just like if you are on FMLA caring for a terminally ill relative, you use FMLA until they pass, and bereavement leave after they pass.

    This is not hard at all.

    There are actually two possible explanations – the director may be manipulative and inventing reasons because she wants to put up roadblocks to leave. Or she may in fact be extremely stupid. Never discount the possibility that someone managed to get into a leadership position despite their own stupidity. It happens all the time.

    Of course, as they say, “any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice,” so either way you should push back with vigor.

  80. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    My company offers bereavement leave for “significant relationships,” which I greatly appreciate. Examples include pets, step grandparents, friends. Same for caretaking/sick leave. It just makes everybody’s life easier to not have to quantify relationships.

  81. Governerd101*

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I had an ectopic pregnancy last month–we hadn’t been trying to get pregnant so it was a huge surprise. I was supposed to leave the next day for a work conference, but my doctor said I was in danger, so I couldn’t travel. I was forced to call my boss and tell her I had to cancel the trip and why. You know what she did? She said, “Say no more!” She handled all the cancelations for me. She discreetly alerted anyone else who needed to know I was going to miss the conference. She encouraged me to put up an OoO and take unofficial time off. She made sure I knew my wellbeing was the upmost importance to her. Later, she revealed to me that she’d had a miscarriage at 12 weeks many years ago, and it has forever changed her life. Last year, we had a woman on our team miscarry at 16 weeks, and when upper management questioned whether she was eligible for bereavement, my boss put up a fight and WON. She said it wasn’t our company’s place to determine whether the 16-weeks constituted a life nor whether the employee should feel sad about it or not.

    She is the BEST boss I’ve ever had, and I would go to war if she asked me to. Women supporting women in the workplace is absolutely the right thing.

    Eff this ED for not understanding basic kindness.

  82. La Triviata*

    This is absurd and inhumane. Back in the early ’70s I was working as a temp. Since I wasn’t going to be there long, the manager had me recording some sensitive health-related information, including a miscarriage. The company gave the woman as much time as she needed, therapy and paid for all costs. And this was *50* years ago. Are we going backwards?

  83. CzechMate*

    My understanding was that bereavement leave was mostly for for things like settling accounts/estates for the deceased, planning a funeral etc. rather than just for the grieving process. If you look at it through that lens–couldn’t these folks go back to the ED and say, “A bereavement policy isn’t for just for staying at home and mourning, per se, it’s also about making arrangements following an unexpected death. Given that, when an individual suffers a miscarriage, they will certainly need time to see a physician (and often a counselor), adjust their finances, (sometimes) arrange funeral services…wouldn’t you agree that this meets the threshold for bereavement leave in the same way as the death of a human family member (in a way that the death of a pet would not)?”

  84. Sherman*

    Just to add my two cents, I had a miscarriage about 6 years ago when I was working for a Big Law firm at the time. I’d been reading various pregnancy forums at the time and felt encouraged by another poster who’d got bereavement leave for her miscarriage, knowing if I got pushback from my manager that my very supportive and lovely attorneys would back me up if I went to them. So I asked my manager if I could use bereavement leave to have a medical procedure to resolve my miscarriage. (It’d been almost a month with no heartbeat detected and there were health concerns that I could go into sepsis if the dying tissue remained much longer.) My manager said fine, just to submit directly to her a dr note confirming as much and take my 3 days. I ended up only telling the attorney I was closest to and worked with the most why I was really going to be out a few days. No one else even knew I was pregnant at time as I would only have been about 9-10 weeks when it occurred. So yea, your boss sucks. You don’t need to pry and ask a million questions. Sometimes one of your employees may be in my position and need to have a medical procedure for their miscarriage. I was grateful to have time off bc frankly I was in a lot of pain 2-3 days afterwards.

  85. CrazyCatLady*

    One of my coworkers put in for bereavement leave after a miscarriage and was told she needed to make up the time. Employer thew a fit, and threatened to quit. Boss got fired and it triggered a huge HR investigation which revealed manager not paying people for overtime.

  86. boof*

    Hm. I haven’t read through all the comments but as someone who had 3 (early) miscarriages, as well as 3 (live, healthy) children, I don’t think miscarriage should be bereavement /because it should be sick leave/. It’s a very physical event, depending on how far along you are can be anywhere from a really bad period* (like, “oh my god there’s blood everywhere” / will leave a trail / 100% do not want to be at work for this) to the same as delivering a baby. So, there should be more sick leave and it should definitely qualify for at least a few days to recover as needed.
    … I say that as someone who definitely went to work the day after being in the ED all night because the bleeding wouldn’t stop, but uh, do as I say, not as I do.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      The thing with bereavement is that it allows for it to be paid but not taken out of the sick leave pool, and you can be basically physically well the next day and still need the time to process the feelings.

      (As for blood; I don’t know what kind of really bad periods others might have had but no, that was a hell of a lot more blood than “a really bad period”)

  87. Annette Weston*

    I was really disturbed to discover last year that I have no bereavement leave at all. I didn’t look closely at that at hire – it’s on me, the not knowing. I have great PTO for sick time and vacation and paid holidays, and at the time of hire it just wasn’t on my mind. But soon after my my mom was diagnosed with ALS and she died six months later. I live 1,200 miles away and burned most of my PTO to be with her as often as possible…only to discover when she died that I had to use PTO. I am a state employee, and expected better.

  88. Knittercubed*

    Everywhere I have ever worked (health care, US) has been super anal about bereavement leave. I know this because as an orphan with no sibs, none of the very important people in my life “qualified” when they died. Guardians who took care of me high school and college? No. Aunts and uncles who bolstered my through life? No.

    I think there is a corporate mindset about not giving away the store on bereavement policy or fear of being taken advantage of.

    1. judyjudyjudy*

      I am also an orphan with no sibs, with the most important living parental figures in my life (an aunt and uncle) still in good health — I never considered this. I guess I’ll have to plan for it as best I can, if I can. Sorry, K, this sucks.

  89. Jackie Daytona, Regular Human Bartender*

    I’m aghast at the ED.

    My workplace isn’t perfect, but my god, at least they act like human beings.

  90. ialwaysforgetmyname*

    The amount of times bereavement leave would be used for miscarriage is pretty small, this ED is making the problem seem far worse than it is. Leaders understandably worry about people abusing things like this, but I think the number of people who abuse it in most organizations is very tiny. And as Alison noted, should be dealt with by management/HR.

  91. Lola*

    Oof. I was just today looking into my company’s medical leave, and found out they have miscarriage leave of 2 weeks. It’s defined as its own class, not as a subset of medical or bereavement leave.

  92. A (Former) Library Person*

    As someone whose spouse has had several miscarriages, I would like to thank OP for being willing to take this on and encourage others to speak up to their own employers. I was able to take accumulated PTO during our losses but not any official bereavement leave, and the extra time would have really helped. So many people are affected by this (more than you probably expect) and it is encouraging to see that miscarriage and pregnancy loss are becoming increasingly talked about publicly. This is a good and moral fight for anyone looking to make a positive change at their workplace.

  93. 2 Cents*

    OP, your PTO and sick leave all in one plan is sorely lacking. Minimum, it should be 20 days combined. MINIMUM. This is especially true at a nonprofit level where compensation often can’t compete with for-profits and can make it up through time off.

    And she sucks in so many ways for trying to “what about” for time off for a miscarriage. I had one. I used my sick time and barely pieced myself back together enough to return to work, with half the staff thinking I’d been on vacation for a long weekend and the other half thinking I’d been out with a cold. In truth, I was fully grieving and of no use to anyone. It was like a death in the family.

  94. SBT*

    As an HR consultant, I’ve pushed bereavement leave for pregnancy loss with every last one of my clients who didn’t already have it. Besides all the arguments for it being the right thing to do, the other argument I give them is that if they don’t spell it out and include it, at some point, an employee will request bereavement leave for their child after experiencing a miscarriage. And then the organization is going to have to either say – sure (effectively saying a fetus is a child) or no (saying it’s not). Given the climate around this in the US, that’s a political and media nightmare that no organization wants to tackle. Put it in now as pregnancy loss.

    Other note is that in many cases, miscarriage is a medical issue that would also qualify a birthing parent for FMLA. So if you are at a company that won’t grant it, I’d apply for FMLA and work with my doctor to see if I can get certified for that. That doesn’t negate the need for employers to have a bereavement leave policy for pregnancy loss for people who don’t qualify for medical leave (particularly non-birthing parents).

  95. Mid*

    I think the best bereavement policy I’ve seen was one that basically boiled down to “use what you need for whatever situations you need it for.” I believe it had broad categories for two different leave amounts of 3 days for some groups and 5 or 7 days for others, and the categories seemed to be basically “are you in charge of a lot of the logistics for this or just attending a service?” And I got the impression that they were pretty flexible beyond that. No needing to prove your grief or relationship or quantify your connection to the loss.

    Many bereavement policies don’t cover friends, or indirect family, just spouses and parents and siblings. And many people have significantly more complicated family ties than that. If you were raised by someone who isn’t legally your parent, does bereavement leave apply? Your best friend who you’re closer to than your sibling? Should you show up to work when you’re bursting into sobs every 6 minutes because your pet just died?

    Why do these policies lack human kindness? I’d rather a dozen people “take advantage” of a too generous leave policy than make a single person fight for time off to grieve for any reason.

  96. Coffee Please*

    Your ED sucks. They are making this way bigger of an issue than it needs to be by adding all the “what-ifs”. My nonprofit org offers paid bereavement leave as well as additional paid reproductive loss leave time. There is no clause or proof necessary. The person only needs to disclose to HR.

    I’ve had a miscarriage and no work was being done while I was at work anyway. Give people the time they need to heal.

  97. Dina*

    12 days of sick leave made me laugh out loud.

    Here in Australia we get 4 weeks of annual leave and 1 week of sick leave. Most places also add a couple of days of bereavement leave to that total.

    Sometimes in small talk people ask if I would move back to the US. Usually I just look them in the eye and say, “Would you move back to the US?” Stuff like this is why people say, “Yeah, no, I would not.”

  98. TheBunny*

    Yeeech. (And a lot of other angry noises.)

    In CA this is part of our laws and as of January reproductive loss gets 5 days. It’s unpaid unless the employer decides otherwise…but it’s there and prior this was something we just…did.

    And I’ve never worked anywhere that it wasn’t paid.

    Your director is awful.

  99. CommanderBanana*

    This is a nuclear option, but I’d write this entire thing up, include the documentation and send it to the board.

    It would also be a shame if this got leaked to any major donors.

  100. Who would have thought?*

    It’s almost as if polarised political discourse over what constitutes a life may have ramifications on people who are directly impacted by the loss of said life…

  101. Elsa*

    I’ve been in the workforce for 20 years, including four years managing dozens of employees, and in that time I’ve never seen a case of a colleague taking off time for a first trimester miscarriage. Given that miscarriages are very common (one in four pregnancies) and given that there’s not really physically a way to miscarry without missing any work, I’m pretty sure that means that many people are just quietly taking sick leave for miscarriages without sharing the details with their workplaces. I know that when I had a miscarriage several years ago I just told everyone at work that I needed a couple of days off for a medical procedure and no questions were asked.

    All this is to say that your boss doesn’t need to worry about dozens of women suddenly demanding bereavement leave for their miscarriages. The people who request it will be the ones who really need it.

  102. Lizzo*

    My sibling discovered their baby was deceased in utero at 37 weeks. The company gave them full maternity leave as planned, plus another week of bereavement when they returned to the office to help ease the transition back to full-time work. They used every single moment of that time away to recover from both the physical and emotional trauma of the experience.

    Anything less than that would have been inhumane.

    This executive director is a crappy leader/manager/human.

  103. Jay*

    I couldn’t help but notice that the Manager in question had absolutely appalling writing habits.
    Mine aren’t good, but, at least they are a bit better than this.
    Are they just that bad, or is English a second language for them? If so, did they come from a culture where this is normal? That this is just how things are handled?
    This is not an excuse for ANYTHING this horrid person said or did, mind you, it just shines a possible light on what is motivating this behavior.
    If something like that is the case, just putting in a rational argument for better treatment may not be enough. You would need to go above or around them, at least in the short term.
    I’ve also had a boss who literally needed things laid out in Q/A Listicle format in order to make a decision. They would have sent and employee something like this, gotten the answers, and come to the decision that Bereavement was warranted and given them all they needed. Bit that was one, deeply strange, exception to the rule and I rather doubt this is the case here.

    1. TK*

      Yeah, I think it’s pretty clear from the writing that the manager isn’t a native English speaker. That has little to do with the substance, though.

  104. Anon for this*

    Ugh. I live in a third world country by pretty much every standard, but we do get paid maternity leave by law – and that includes miscarriages.

  105. Overthinking it*

    To be fair, the 12 days mentioned are the minimum, for people “starting eith the agency”. It may go up the second year. (still pretty skimpy on sick leave, though, even if only one week is vacation. ) Is bereavement normally handled on a case by cade manner, I wonder? If so, the whole “when it starts” . . .

  106. Justme, The OG*

    Would the Pregnancy Discrimination Act apply here? It includes associated medical conditions of pregnancy, and miscarriage is part of that.

  107. Delta Delta*

    A couple weeks ago I went to a funeral for a baby that was stillborn at 24 weeks. The parents – both mom and dad – were absolutely wrecked. Mom had the physical and emotional trauma. Dad obviously didn’t bear the child but was deeply saddened and barely functional. Luckily both parents have incredibly supportive workplaces and allowed them each the time they needed (and many of Mom’s wonderful coworkers also went to the funeral to support the family, which felt very genuine). Not sure where I”m going with this, but I’m very glad neither of these parents works at OP’s workplace because this was a different kind of grief than I’ve ever seen.

  108. I Can't Believe It*

    I am one who would go scorched earth on this one. I would post the email on social media and allow the public to see how this organization handles employees differently than how they present themselves to the public. Let them deal with the PR fall out.

  109. Samm*

    My first miscarriage, I worked for a company that tooted the “catholic family values” as an employer alot. I texted my boss at 3 am from the ER- who knew I was pregnant due to constant morning sickness and her love of microwaving fish next to my desk (even after I asked her to move to the microwave closer to her office) and she responded “you didn’t seem excited about being pregnant or ever talk about having kids… so you still can come to work today right, we have a lot going on? I’ll also say a prayer for you”

    I vowed when my husband hit his 1 year cancer free mark and I knew I didn’t need FMLA for a while I was leaving. I got a job offer the day before his test results came in. The day after he was ‘all clear’ I quit and sighted that as my number 2 reason why. Number 1 was her asking for me to call and reschedule my husbands surgery to a time that is more convient for our office.

    I absolutely miss her family first way of managing.

    1. not nice, don't care*

      ‘Values’ are just code for hate, ignorance & bigotry when uttered by religious extremists. Yeah they have values, ugly ones. Same as any hate group.

  110. Amanda*

    This is the first time I’ve said, out loud, “Fuck off” while reading an AMA column. The executive director’s list of questions is absolutely heartless. If you truly believe people are going to abuse *bereavement leave for miscarriage* then you have no place in a leadership role.

  111. J!*

    Girl, you and your colleagues need to form a union. The policy is bad, but the harshness with which the response was delivered shows a real lack of respect.

    Push back, you deserve to be treated like people.

  112. YoungTen*

    having worked through a miscarriage, I can say that it is literally the worst thing possible. Imagine that your loved one is lying on their deathbed but because of company policy, you simply cannot leave and grieve. The expectation to perform is still in place. And while some will argue that “you didn’t actually know the person yet” is complete crap! Loss is loss and the expectation of the new baby in a few months is suddenly ripped away. Not only that but all the physical trauma that goes along with the loss. I truly hope LW that your company reconsiders this hartless polity.

  113. Seen Too Much*

    We have a formal policy for bereavement, which is 3 days – or 5 if you need to travel. However, we allow you to use it for miscarriage, family, or a very close friend (not for pets, but you can use sick time – which is 2 weeks a year). We also don’t niggle on the 3-5 days. We have several religious Jewish employees and Shiva is 7 days after burial. We aren’t telling them tough come back in 3 days.

    We are looking at having a separate policy for miscarriage for the birth parent. Since there would be medical reasons, as well as emotional ones. Non-birth parents would just use bereavement.

    We start everyone at 3 weeks vacation. We are looking into adding to that.

    I think, especially since your remit is the welfare of families specifically mothers and children, this policy is out of touch.

    I feel like this doesn’t bode well for the wellbeing of your employees.

  114. Database Developer Dude*

    Take Alison’s advice on the bereavement for a miscarriage. Push back as a group, and get sympathetic men to be loud about it. The optics of men arguing for bereavement leave for a miscarriage while a woman is arguing against it will strengthen your cause.

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