An elementary public school teacher had won the battle to change maternity rules after the school she had worked for allegedly refused paid leave for stillbirth.
30-year-old Elizabeth O’Donnell rushed to George Washington University Hospital in DC after noting she had not felt any fetal movement all day.
The then 31-week pregnant teacher was given the saddest news when she was told that there was no longer a heartbeat and the baby had to be delivered stillborn.
O’Donnell, who had worked for the District of Columbia Public Schools for seven years, tried to file for a Paid Family Leave (PFL) but was denied.
“The response I received from DCPS was that I was no longer eligible for the PFL because I was only caring for ‘myself,” she said.
She was instead told to file apply for the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and/or use whatever sick leave she had left because “she had no birth certificate.”
“I explained that I did ‘birth a child,’ which is one of the qualifications for the eight-week PFL. I was again denied and told it no longer applied to me,” O’Donnell said.
“The fact is, my employer was choosing to not grant the leave that I had already been granted while pregnant because my daughter Aaliyah was not living.”
Appalled by the treatment she received, O’Donnell called them out on social media and shared her side of the story.
Since her story went viral, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser immediately sprang into action and signed an action to offer certificates for stillbirths upon request.
Bowser also sought to pass the District Government Parental Bereavement Leave Emergency Amendment Act of 2021.
The bill, which was announced by the District of Columbia Council, calls for an additional two weeks of paid leave to any district government employee who experienced the death of a child or stillbirth.