Secretary Perez Answers Paid Leave Letter Writers

You may not know it, but only 12 percent of private sector workers in the U.S. have access to paid leave. That means a parent having to choose between going to work instead of staying home with a sick loved one, or a new mother having to go back to work too soon. Paid sick and family leave shouldn’t have to be a luxury for working families. That’s why President Obama unveiled his proposal to take action on paid leave this week.

Secretary Tom Perez is also ready to lead on leave. As a father of three, he knows that the most important value is spending time with your family. Before the State of the Union this Tuesday, he called everyday Americans who wrote in to tell him how paid leave would benefit them.

Sarah Schexnayder from Annapolis, MD
Sarah is the director of sales for a software company. While pregnant with her second child, she was told to take all the time she needed — as long as it was unpaid. With her job based largely on commission, she says she always feels “under the pressure to be connected at all times.”

Sarah S Family Navy Football“I’ve worked for the same software small business (less than 35 employees) for over 9 years. I have 2 children, and received zero paid leave for either of them. My husband, who is in he military, received paternity leave but I as the biological mother received none. I had the options of using sick or vacation days (that I also had to use for doctor appointments), take unpaid leave, or suck it up and deal with it. For my first child, I literally did a conference call with a client the morning after she was born, while she was getting her Apgar tests. I am in sales, and most of my compensation is commission based. If I don’t sell, I don’t take he needed money. I felt like I couldn’t take a break, and it wore on me. I had a mild case of PPD with my first, and I truly feel that not being able to take time for myself to heal after a difficult birth and focus on my child attributed to it. I literally took zero days off, and worked from home with my first child. With my second child, I took 2 days off – but still was pressured to “check my messages and respond appropriately” during those two days off. Not having maternity or paternity leave is demoralizing.


Ashley Courtien from Staten Island, NY

Ashley is a 27-year-old mother of three and the sole breadwinner of her household. She is a patient care assistant at a hospital where she works the overnight shift. With her third child due right before the holidays last year, she didn’t know how she was going to make ends meet, much less buy Christmas presents for her 5-year-old daughter.

“I just had a baby girl last year and struggled to make ends meet with my then 5 year old as well. I got to use sick time for the first 5 days of leave, then it switched over to disability. I was out for a full 2 months before I saw a check from my union, maybe more. That’s two missed months on rent, car payments, food, utilities and so on.

Well, I’m pregnant again, due in November, and am panic stricken, which has already resulted in a shingles outbreak. Now I have two other kids, one in diapers and on formula. I am the sole breadwinner of my family. I work full time supplying support and heath care to the mentally unsound. I support my family, and I support the community. And I get nothing in return in my time of need. What am I going to do? I live in New York City, one of the most expensive places to live. Should I sacrifice having a family because the United States of America, the land of the free, can’t support me for a mere 3 months while I take care of my own children? My disability is maybe $600 every two weeks; my rent alone is $1,300. Please tell me how that is supposed to work?”


Chelsie Fletcher from Little Rock, ARchelsie

Chelsie is due with her first child in just a few weeks. She is a staffing coordinator for a locally-owned agency that helps people find permanent jobs in the medical field. As someone who has done everything right and played by the rules, she doesn’t understand why she can’t catch a break:

I work for a small local business and I absolutely love my job! Due to the small size of the company I receive no benefits. I currently have insurance through my spouses employer. I will not receive maternity leave and the time I do take will be unpaid. I am due February 8th and I am worried we won’t even make it 6 weeks without me having to return to work due to money issues. I am scared and wish I had a government to support me during this precious time.



You can hear more about the President’s plan to take action on paid leave in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20, at 9pm ET. Watch live online at

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