NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A devastated Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker says the agency denied him paternity leave after his partner had a stillbirth. The union fought on his behalf for a month, and on Wednesday afternoon the agency announced a change.
They have already disassembled the crib, but still have not made the time to properly let go of their stillborn son’s ashes. Elyse Ortiz had a stillbirth on Feb. 2, eight months into her pregnancy. She is on maternity leave from a private sector job, but her domestic partner, train operator Reinaldo Lopez, said the MTA told him, “You get three days bereavement and we’ll take it from there.”
“One of those days was spent with me in the hospital all day,” Ortiz told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.
Lopez contacted Transport Workers Union Local 100. The union contract reads “upon the birth of a child” a worker is “entitled to two weeks fully paid maternity/paternity leave.”
“They told him that because the baby was dead he wasn’t entitled to paternal leave,” Ortiz said.
TWU rep Eric Loegel said MTA Labor Relations told him the time was meant for bonding with a baby. Attorney Rania Sedhom has represented employers and explained.
“While the law doesn’t discuss stillborn babies … but sometimes you do have to make exceptions for horrible scenarios,” Sedhom said.
In this case, the union helped reorganize Lopez’s vacation and sick time to get him two weeks off, but still pleaded with the MTA to reconsider.
“It’s hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever been through,” Lopez said. “If your mind is not in the right place, you know, you shouldn’t be operating a train.”
Former MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow told CBS2 he even called current chairman Pat Foye.
“Have a heart for a couple weeks. What’s the difference? It was cruel and he’s not a cruel guy,” Kalikow said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Foye said the MTA changed course.
“He’s going to get parental leave. I think everybody on our side was moved by our colleague’s situation,” Foye said.
Moving forward, the MTA said others in this unfortunate situation will get the same benefit.
The union said it’s meeting with the MTA in the next few months to also incorporate the state’s paid family leave law into its contract.