Pregnant women who served in the Trump administration, but were suddenly out of a job when President Biden took office, are being denied parental leave benefits by the Biden administration, according to a shocking report from Politico.
“I got completely screwed,” Vanessa Ambrosini, who worked in the Trump administration for four years, told Politico. “There were no caveats in that language saying anything about if the administration turns, you get nothing and of course, that happened and so I got nothing.” Her benefits had been approved for January through March by the Commerce Department’s human resources office, but she was informed the day before her baby was due that her leave would be discontinued after January 20, effectively canceling a benefit she was already using.
The Biden White House would not comment on the issue, but an anonymous official said that political appointees “do not enjoy the promise of federal employment past the end of the administration in which they choose to serve.”
“We understand that a few Trump appointees, including a handful currently on parental leave, submitted last minute requests to remain on government payroll,” the official said. “Because these requests were received so close to Inauguration Day… there was no way to implement an exception to the rule in a way that is fair to all outgoing appointees, including many who resigned as expected without making requests for extraordinary benefits.”
The appointees were advised to pursue other options, like COBRA or coverage under Obamacare.
Unfortunately for these women, finding a new job in Washington, D.C., will prove to be difficult, especially when the federal government is run by Democrats, and job-hunting with a newborn is a huge challenge.
“With a newborn baby, it’s not like I can just jump on the job market and be like ‘hey, I’m ready to work,'” Ambrosini said. “It’s hard. No one’s going to be willing to hire me right this second because I’m still home with the baby, so it’s tough.”
Ambrosini’s story is not unique either. She’s among a large number of former Trump officials whose parental leave benefits vanished the moment Biden was sworn into office. These women argued that the Biden administration should have kept them on the payroll to honor the parental leave they were entitled to. Politico reviewed emails that proved that their requests were specifically denied.
A married couple working at the Department of Homeland Security reported a similar experience. Their baby was born on December 18, and they had been told their benefits would be treated the same as those for career employees, only to learn on January 5 that the benefit would end on January 20.
“It’s one thing if you have a household, if you have one family member who works for the government,” the husband said. “But we were both employed by the government so we’re losing both of our opportunities for health care and both our incomes, so it’s pretty scary to have a premature baby at home and not knowing if you’re going to have an income or health insurance.”
The couple wrote the Biden Transition Office a letter in the hopes of restoring the benefits they were promised. “[T]he remaining 9-10 weeks afforded to federal employees is critical to our family and livelihoods as we work to raise a strong, healthy boy under unique and unforeseen complications to our birth plan,” they wrote.
The DHS’ Presidential Transition Office couldn’t have cared less about their plight and told them in a January 18 email that their benefits would not be rolled over into the incoming administration.
Though experts say the Biden administration is under no legal obligation to grant Trump officials their leave, the optics of the move are terrible. Even Politico noted that “new administrations don’t immediately push out all political appointees from the prior one. And some experts said it would have set a good precedent for the Biden team to accommodate those individuals on parental leave as a means of reinforcing the importance of the policy.”
Democrats have argued that paid parental leave is a civil right, and have been highly critical of the United States for not mandating paid parental leave. Biden himself has been a champion of parental leave benefits. After the 2019 law mandating federal workers get paid parental leave passed, he tweeted: “It’s about time that federal workers get paid parental leave. It is long past time that every American has 12 weeks of paid leave to address their own health needs or care for any of their loved ones.”
I guess the rules are different when you worked for Trump.