The New York subway operator's wife gave birth to a stillborn child but the grieving man was ordered to report back to work in 3 days.
Losing a child can be a heartbreaking experience and it is something New York City Transit worker Reinaldo Lopez had to live through after his wife gave birth to a stillborn son. The pain of losing a child after months of excitement proved too much for Reinaldo Lopez to cope with and he was hoping to use paid parental leave to grieve and recover. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had initially denied Reinaldo Lopez parental leave and ordered him to report to work in just 3 days, reported NY Daily News. Lopez, 33, wanted to spend the parental leave with his wife, Elyse Ortiz, who was devastated after giving birth to a stillborn child. The MTA sanctioned family leave for the Lopez after the Transport Workers Union intervened. The couple was excited about starting a family but eight months into the pregnancy, in January, Elyse Ortiz stopped experiencing the kick in her belly. The couple was concerned and went to the doctor, only to be told that the baby had no heartbeat. She then gave natural birth to a stillborn child that night.
“We were devastated. You feel like you should get some kind of reward from putting all that effort into natural birth, which is holding your baby and hearing them cry,” said Lopez. The couple had a name ready for their child — Sylas. Lopez, who has been working at the job for three years, then requested his supervisors at MTA for paid family leave but they turned down his request and asked to return to work in just three days, the standard bereavement leave for employees who experience a death in the family. “I wasn’t ready to go back to work. Bills need to be paid, but mentally it’s too recent,” said Lopez. He also stressed that the pain of losing a child had affected him deeply was also likely to affect his work, which unlike other jobs involves the safety of countless passengers. “You’re operating a train through tracks that sometimes are being worked on, there’s people there trying to flag you down. A lot of crazy stuff can happen when your mind is not where it's supposed to be operating a train,” said Lopez.
The MTA had argued that they were playing the rulebook while initially denying him paid leave. “As an organization and as colleagues of Mr. Lopez, we are very sorry for his family’s loss," said MTA spokesman Tim Minton. “The MTA is a compassionate employer that encourages employees to take advantage of the many programs we have for employees who are going through difficult situations.”
Local 100, a Transport workers union, fought on his behalf for a month, before the MTA changed their stance and granted him paid family leave. Lopez said that the law clearly stated that he would be entitled to paid leave if his wife gave birth, which she did. “We were reading up on the transit rules and all it says about paternal leave is that you just need to have a birth. Nowhere in the literature does it states that you will not be entitled to paternity leave if the baby is stillborn,” said Lopez. He also argued that the MTA wasn't taking into account the human factor and simply hoping to save money. “We’re asking for some human compassion here. We’re talking about two weeks pay,” said Zach Arcidiacono, head of Local 100′s train operators division. “We’re in a climate right now, we saw this in our contract fight, where the authority is under this mandate from these consultants, and they don’t want to pay out when they don’t think they have to.”
According to CBS2, a former MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow had called the current chairman Pat Foye to intervene. “Have a heart for a couple weeks. What’s the difference? It was cruel and he’s not a cruel guy,” said Kalikow said. Foye also made a case for Lopez and helped reverse the decision. "He’s going to get parental leave. I think everybody on our side was moved by our colleague’s situation,” said Foye.