In Michigan, the LG takes paternity leave

July 24, 2019 5:13 am

Garlin and Ellen Gilchrist with their new daughter, Ruby | Gilchrist photo

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist is set on Wednesday morning to kick off a criminal justice reform task force in Detroit. That comes after he announced last week he was back from a four-week paternity leave after the birth of his third child.

Gilchrist and his wife, Ellen, last month welcomed their daughter, Ruby, who joined their twins, Garlin III and Emily Grace.

“We are elated to welcome Ruby Madeline Gilchrist into our family, and I’m thankful for the opportunity over the last few weeks to form such a close bond with Ruby,” Gilchrist told the Advance. “While my Michigan family now extends to everyone in our state in my role as lieutenant governor, it was important for me to be there with my wife and children during this precious time.”

During that time, the LG has had some work obligations, such as a meeting over Benton Harbor schools. Since his return, Gilchrist has spoken at the NAACP national convention in Detroit.

The state of Michigan does not maintain records on maternity or paternity leave for previous governors or lieutenant governors, Gilchrist’s office said. The last governor or lieutenant governor who had children while in office was Gov. John Engler, whose triplets were born in 1994. They were the first children born to a sitting Michigan governor since 1864, according to a press release.

Gilchrist is the only male top statewide elected official, joining Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. He’s also the first African American lieutenant governor in Michigan history.

Gilchrist: ‘Exciting and humbling’ to be Michigan’s first African-American LG

Gilchrist also said he supports employers offering parental leave.

“Paternity leave allows fathers of newborns to strengthen the connection with their family, and I encourage every workplace to encourage fathers and mothers to take time to embrace these special moments,” he said. 

The United States is one of only a handful of countries in the world that doesn’t require paid parental leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates workplaces with 50 workers or more provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for some employees.

Currently, 83% of civilian workers don’t have access to paid family leave, Time reports. Five states and the District of Columbia have laws for paid family leave, according to Marketwatch. In Michigan, the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2018 watered down a paid sick leave ballot initiative to 40 hours for some employers — which last week was part of a Michigan Supreme Court hearing.

There’s been a national debate on family leave, with Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to her father, President Donald Trump, supporting limited measures. Democratic presidential candidates, including U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have put out more comprehensive proposals.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.