Sunday, May 13, 2001
Unwed employees feel
shortchanged by workplace 'family oriented' policies
A story published today by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that in recent
years, singles have become more vocal about what they perceive as unfair treatment by
employers. The story mention AASP's Singles-Friendly Workplace Campaign.
Single rights advocates argue that unmarried workers make up roughly 40 percent of the
nation's full-time workforce and should be able to enjoy the same health-care benefits,
tax breaks and other perks that married people enjoy.
Last year, author Elinor Burkett took up the fight for
singles equity in her book, "The Baby Boon: How Family-Friendly America Cheats the
Childless." No Kidding!, a nonprofit social club for childless singles and couples,
also is growing in popularity across the country. The group does not promote a particular
agenda, but its founding non-father, Jerry Steinberg, has strong opinions about how
employers "seem to be bending over backward trying to please child-burdened
According to employment experts, companies are now
creating workplaces that caters to everyone.
A survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource
Management found that one in five companies allows employees to bring children to work in
emergencies, and 17 percent offer child care referral services. Three percent of firms
surveyed provide on-site child care.
At the same time, employers are not simply catering to
families, but offering a wide array of options for workers who are single, single parents
or living with a domestic partner.
"While employers are trying to be more sensitive to
those with families, ultimately what they're trying to get at is work-life balance,"
said Kristin Bowl, spokeswoman for the Society of Human Resource Management, an
Alexandria, Va., association of human resource professionals. "That is a benefit
that's helpful for those with families and those without."
"They're trying to be inclusive, flexible and trying to
provide choices," she said. "It's not a perfect world, but the awareness is
Thomas Coleman, an attorney and executive director of the
American Association for Single People, said his goal is to spread the word to even more
employers. The association, a nonprofit organization that promotes equal rights for
unmarried adults, couples, parents and families, has embarked on a singles-friendly
campaign to explain some of the ways in which singles are discriminated against.
Single workers typically pay higher taxes and receive fewer
job benefits than their married counterparts, according to Coleman. Employers, he said,
should implement "cafeteria-style" benefits, which allow workers to choose
benefits that meet their individual needs - regardless of their living arrangements.
Fortunately for singles, Coleman said more companies are
beginning to adopt a different approach.
"Some of them (companies) went overboard a bit in
stressing so heavily family and children to the point where there's been some type of a
backlash," said Coleman, who met with Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C.,
earlier this month.
"Mickey" Ayyoub, who lives with a female domestic partner in Sausalito, said
that government, private and public companies should be doing more to help singles get
their fair share. (Ayyoub's photo appears to the left.)
Ayyoub, who is a member of the American Association for
Single People, made headlines locally about four years ago when he filed a complaint
against the city of Oakland for denying health benefits to his partner, Sandra Washburn.
At the time, the city had a policy offering medical benefits
to city employees' same-sex partners. The city eventually changed its policy in 1998 to
include heterosexual domestic partners.
"Oakland had been enlightened about domestic-partner
status," said Ayyoub, 37. "It is a lifestyle that has to be respected. Just
because marriage is there, it shouldn't impact a domestic partner lifestyle. We are real
people with real lifestyles, and we want real respect."
Equity in the workplace is important, said Donna Lenhoff,
general counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington, D.C.
However, many singles are missing the point about what family means, she said.
"Single people are also members of families. They may not have spouses or children,
but single people have parents and grandparents who often need care. They're often quite
involved in family responsibilities."
Although Melanie Dowe, 38, decided not to have children of
her own, she agrees that employers should support family-friendly policies. Dowe, senior
vice president of a global marketing research company in San Francisco, and her husband,
Robert Van Poederooyen, started a San Francisco/East Bay chapter of No Kidding! a year ago
to meet other childless couples.
"In my personal experience, I've not experienced that
kind of inequity," Dowe said. "Several of us believe those policies should be in
"The role of parents is a difficult one, and we admire
people that want to be parents. Workplaces have to recognize family issues in order to
keep good employees."
Saturday, May 12, 2001
Tennessee judges clash over divorce
A story published today by the Tenessean reports that Tennessee Circuit Judge Russ Heldman
of Franklin is firing back at Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge William Koch in their
running disagreement over how hard it should be to get a divorce.
The Court of Appeals has reversed several rulings in which Heldman took an old-fashioned
view of ''the sanctity of marriage'' and ruled against husbands who, he felt, had
mistreated their wives.
In one sharply worded opinion, Koch said that Heldman had let his ''personal notions of
moral rectitude'' override the best interests of a Lewis County couple's children when he
denied visitation rights to the father as punishment for leaving his wife for another
Heldman balked last week at declaring a Williamson County couple divorced, as the Court of
Appeals had ordered him to do, and the Court of Appeals responded Monday with an order
staying further proceedings on the case in Heldman's court.
That prompted a 14-page order from Heldman, reiterating his reasons for leaving a
paralyzed woman's marriage intact -despite her husband's demand for a divorce - and
accusing Koch of being so ''biased and prejudiced'' that he should not hear any more
appeals from Heldman's court.
The case at issue is Clark Matthew Earls' attempt to divorce his wife, Shirley Ann Earls,
who was left paralyzed by an aneurysm in1997. Shirley Earls has said she wants to stay
married and on her husband's health insurance plan, even though she acknowledges they can
no longer live together.
Heldman ruled in 1999 that Clark Earls was not entitled to a divorce on grounds of
inappropriate marital conduct because there was no proof that Shirley Earls had done
anything wrong. But the Court of Appeals reversed Heldman last June in a 2-1 decision
written by Koch. The Tennessee Supreme Court decided in March not to get involved in the
case, and it was sent back to Heldman with instructions to declare the couple divorced.
Koch wrote last June that Heldman mistakenly viewed himself as ''the protector of the
institution of marriage'' when he refused to grant Clark Earls' request for a divorce.
Koch said that state law no longer favors ''condemning two persons to loveless marital
unions'' once a marriage is ''irretrievably broken.''
''While Ms. Earls had no control over the fact that she was injured, she did have control
over how she treated Mr. Earls,'' Koch wrote.
All three members of the Court of Appeals panel said that Heldman had exceeded his
authority when he ordered Clark Earls not to ''come around'' his baby sitter, ''period,''
as long as he was married. (Clark Earls said he had developed a nonsexual relationship
with the woman, whom he had asked to care for the couple's then 7-year-old son.)
But Court of Appeals Judge William Cain issued a dissenting opinion in which he said that
Koch and Judge Patricia Cottrell, the third member of the panel, had to stretch to find
that Shirley Earls was at fault in any way.
Heldman said in the order he issued Wednesday that he was still considering whether to
declare the couple divorced. The Court of Appeals has not yet acted on Clark Earls'
lawyer's request that it simply go ahead and grant the divorce on its own.
''My client does not have a lot of money,'' Clark Earls' lawyer, Robyn Ryan, said
yesterday. ''I do not want to waste his money or time. I am just trying to get him
Both Heldman and Koch declined to comment, citing the judicial canons of ethics, when they
were contacted by a reporter yesterday afternoon.
Higher divorce rate for women with
A story released today by Reuters reports that men are more likely to leave their spouses
with cancerous brain tumors, a U.S. researcher said on Saturday.
Dr. Michael Glantz said a study of 214 patients with brain tumors showed that women were
eight times more likely than men to experience a marital separation or divorce and that
men usually initiated the split.
Glantz, a neuro-oncologist at the University of Massachusetts, said it was ``very
alarming'' to find that men were leaving their wives at a time when they needed support to
cope with a deadly illness.
Patients with the type of brain tumor studied are likely to live only about a year after
Glantz said he had not yet evaluated the reasons behind the marital break-ups, but he gave
most men the benefit of the doubt that ``it's not because they are nasty people.''
``Women seem to be more willing or more adept at nurturing their husbands through an
illness, while men are not as skilled at doing the same for their
wives,'' he said.
Marriages were more likely to end when patients' tumors caused frontal lobe disease, a
condition that causes people to lose motivation and attentiveness. ``It's really hard to
put up with,'' Glantz told reporters attending a meeting of the American Society of
A marital split ``really changes your ability to treat a patient,'' Glantz added. Patients
living on their own may not have transportation to an appointment or might fear undergoing
treatment that would make them too tired to run their households alone.
Glantz also studied divorce rates among patients with other illnesses.
In 107 patients with multiple sclerosis, women were nearly seven times more likely than
men to become divorced or separated. And among 193 patients with other cancers, women were
12 times more likely to have that outcome.
Additional studies are underway to see whether counseling or something else might help
marriages endure in the face of serious illnesses. ``We don't think this has to be set in
stone. We are going to see if we can intervene early to prevent
that,'' Glantz said.
Friday, May 11, 2001
Manhattan school's decision to ban
Mother's and Father's day sparks mixed reactions
A story released today by ABC News reports that a lot has changed in the structure of the
American family since President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday of May
Mother's Day on 1914. So when a Manhattan school "banned" Mother's - and
Father's - Day earlier this week, it kicked up a furor, with an article published in
the New York Post.
Parents of children at the Rodeph Sholom Day School, the daily reported, were in an uproar
over the new policy, which was aimed at protecting the feelings of children raised by
The "ban" was a case of political correctness running amok, the paper suggested,
and opponents of the move, such as Stanley Kurtz, a columnist at the National Review,
called it an attack on the very institution of motherhood.
"Give me a break," said Meema Spadola, director of the public television
documentary, Our House: A Very Real Document About Kids of Gay and Lesbian Parents, and
daughter of a lesbian mother. "I think their heart is in the right place, but
instead of getting rid of Mother's Day, it would have been a terrific opportunity to use
it instead to describe different family structures."
Certainly the American family is not what it used to be. Approximately 30 years ago, a
traditional household meant a dad, mom and the children. Today, over half of all American
children do not live in so-called traditional two-parent nuclear families.
According to Congressional Research Service reports, nearly 500,000 American children live
in foster care at any one time and approximately a million children in the United States
live with adoptive parents.
Estimates of children of gay, lesbian and bisexual parents in the United States vary from
6 to 10 million according to COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere).
Some experts believe that for these children, doing away with Mother's and Father's Day
celebrations at school may be a step in the right direction.
"I'm surprised that there's such a backlash because it's not about political
correctness, it's about sensitivity," said Laura Benkov, child psychologist and
author of Reinventing the Family (Crown, 1994).
Benkov believes that besides children of same sex parents, the move also benefits children
who have lost a parent.
But Jerald Newberry, executive director of the National Education Association Health
Information Network, disagreed. "Assignments that allow children to express their
thoughts and emotions can be healing," he said. "I don't think educators
traumatize children by giving them an opportunity to write letters to people who care
The problem for educators, said Newberry, is the baggage of value systems and prejudices
children bring from home.
The growing numbers of single parents - mostly mothers - many of whom work two jobs, also
means parents and guardians have less time to spend with their kids, Newberry says, and
impart early but crucial social and communication skills.
Given that it's tougher world in American homes, which makes it a tougher world in
American schools, Newberry believes any move towards sensitizing the school environment is
a positive one.
"If you see the basis of school violence, it is tied to name calling and bullying,
which comes out of ignorance," he said. "I think that this school is trying very
hard to be sensitive to the changing population in schools."
Wednesday, May 9, 2001
North Carolina leaders push for
minimum wage increase to assist working poor
A story released today by the New & Records reports that a group of North
Carolina Democratic legislators and advocates for the poor are urging and requesting state
lawmakers to increase the state minimum wage and create a state earned income tax credit
to assist the working poor.
"It is time that North Carolina helped its low-wage workers and raised the minimum
wage to a living wage," state Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, said during a news
Adams has filed a bill that would raise the minimum wage in North Carolina from $5.15 an
hour to $8.50 over the next three years. It is one of three bills addressing a
state-imposed minimum wage and earned income tax credit.
Other legislation would create a state earned income tax credit, allowing poor working
families to receive an additional tax break that could reach as much as $388. The credit
would be based on the federal earned income tax credit, which a maximum credit of $3,888
is allowed for a family with two children.
A third bill would begin a legislative study of a "living income" to examine
issues of pay and living expenses for the working poor. It is generally considered to have
the best chance of approval.
Perri Morgan, state director of the National Federation for Independent Business, said an
$8.50 minimum wage is unrealistic. She said a minimum wage increase would hurt teenagers,
seasonal workers and the businesses that rely on them.
Sorien Schmidt, an attorney with the N.C. Justice and Community Development Center, cited
statistics that indicate a third of North Carolinians who file income tax returns don't
earn a "living wage."
Her group, which lobbies on behalf of the poor, defines a living wage as $22,600 for a
single parent with a child living in an urban area. For a single parent in a rural area,
it's defined as $18,050.
Gov. Mike Easley, on the other hand, proposed additional accountability measures for Smart
Start, the state's early childhood initiative.
"I want to maintain as much local flexibility as possible to meet the different needs
in each of the counties, but our people deserve accountability," Easley said.
Smart Start provides or helps fund many services for children from birth through age 5 --
including subsidies for day care and preschool programs.
Arizona governor repeals sex law
A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Arizona law on unmarried
couples living together, sodomy and sex not intended to conceive children are no longer
crimes against the state.
Gov. Jane Hull signed the HB 2016 Tuesday, repealing the archaic sex laws.
"Fundamentally, it came down to government not interfering in people's lives,"
Hull spokeswoman Francie Noyes said when announcing the decision.
"The governor and I agree that the state has no compelling interest in the lives of
consenting adults," said Rep. Steve May, R-Paradise Valley, who sponsored the
"This has been a debate in the Legislature for the last 20 years," May
said."This ends the debate. Anybody that tries to proactively put them back onto the
books will be laughed out of office."
The Center for Arizona Policy, a Scottsdale-based conservative advocacy group, encouraged
people to call or e-mail Hull and ask her to veto the bill, leading to an avalanche of
"We're extremely disappointed," Cathi Herrod, an attorney and lobbyist for the
center, said. "It's another step in devaluing marriage as the foundation of our
Rep. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa, said Hull's decision puts the state's stamp of approval on
activities she disagrees with.
"For the state to now say to everyone, including young people, that there's nothing
wrong with this, from the policy standpoint it's just as wrong as can be,"
As of Monday, the governor had received more than 5,700 phone calls and e-mails offering
suggestions about what she should do.
"I think the pressure and the high feelings on both sides has been out-of-bounds as
far as the importance of the legislation versus what it really does," Hull said
Tuesday morning during a visit to Tucson. "I think that we've had a lot of people who
are very focused on that while I think about 98 percent of the state probably does not
even know the bill exists."
In a letter to House Speaker Jim Weiers, Hull said the sex laws are not enforced and
cannot be enforced.
"Keeping archaic laws on the books does not promote high moral standards; instead, it
teaches the lesson that laws are made to be broken," she said.
"Moral standards are set by families and those they turn to for guidance, such as
religious and community leaders. We learn much more from watching their behavior than from
any written laws or rules."