Woman Wins Legal Battle To Have Maternity Leave After Baby Was Born Stillborn
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Elizabeth O'Donnell, 30, was seven months pregnant when she was told her daughter Aaliyah Denise no longer had a heartbeat.
Distraught, Elizabeth, from Anacostia in Washington DC, requested whether she start her scheduled eight week paid time off for postpartum recovery immediately to grieve.
However, she was shocked to have been told that she no longer qualified for maternity leave as her daughter was stillborn.
Elizabeth claims she was informed by officials because "she had no birth certificate" she should take unpaid family or medical leave, or use sick leave because she was "only caring for myself".
Appalled Elizabeth called them out on social media, and last week District of Columbia Council announced a bill offering two weeks' paid leave to employees who lose a child - including stillbirths.
Before Elizabeth's campaign, public employees in DC were only entitled to three days bereavement leave after the death of a family member.
Elizabeth explained: "Just because my daughter is not here breathing does not mean my body heals automatically and it doesn't mean there is no family.
"I'm just trying to get what I am owed as someone who delivered a child and to have that type of response with no empathy or understanding, no human response, was very hurtful."
She added: "My main goal here is just reach women that have maybe experienced this or had to go back to work too quickly or had to quit their jobs entirely - you should not be put in that position because of a law we did not ask for.
"If this helps other women, other governments and agencies to figure out how best to help women and families after experiencing a loss like this, then I'm willing to put myself out there."
Elizabeth was scheduled to take time off from January 2021 after she had given birth - but was left panicked in November when she noticed her daughter had stopped moving.
After a scan at Washington University Hospital, she was told her baby had no heartbeat - and was induced.
Elizabeth gave birth to her daughter at 5.30am on December 1 2020, after a 48 hour labour.
Just a week after her loss, she contacted the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Leave of Absence Office to request her paid maternity leave begin immediately - who reportedly rejected her family leave as she did not have a birth certificate.
But instead of quietly accepting her response, Elizabeth chose to raise awareness, and posted about it on her social media, which quickly went viral.
Elizabeth said: "The outpouring of other mums that had experienced it, it really was incredible, I never knew any of this stuff existed until I experienced it myself."
The caught the attention of Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser who called for change
A month later, on March 2nd, council members agreed to pass a bill giving all public employees who lose a child under the age of 21, including stillbirths, to two weeks' leave.
Elizabeth would like to see stillbirth be covered under paid family leave, but added: "It's a step in the right direction and I am very grateful for it.
"But in the same vein I am still eligible for paid family leave as it is defined."