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Voices from the Front Lines

June 16, 2014

Voices from the front lines cover
Family Values @ Work presents Voices from the Front Lines, compelling stories that illustrate what happens when families have–or don’t have–access to policies like paid sick days and paid family leave.  As part of the week of action for the FAMILY Act and leading up to the June 23rd White House Summit hear stories of how families have struggled to care when caring means facing job loss or loss of income. Read the full stories and more here.




Eliseo Hernandez, Washington DC

W DC Eliseo HernandezrsWithout any guaranteed sick days Eliseo’s employer refused to let him leave work to go to his doctor’s appointments resulting in his insurance company cancelling his policy.  “They told me it seemed that my health is not important to me,” Eliseo said. As a result, he can no longer get his medication.  “My health is important to me,” says Eliseo. “My work is also important to me. But how can I keep working if I am not allowed to give some attention to my health?”Read his full story on page 12


Lin Nestler, Aurora, CO

In 2012, Lin’s cared for her father for his final 3 months, just long enough to lose her job and become technically homeless.    Having only unpaid FMLA leave, Lin had to cash out her 401K, pay bills on credit and sell any valuables she had. “This was nothing compared to the pain of watching my dad fade away,” she says. “This is what families DO. They care for each other.” Read Lin’s story Page  16

Leah Pimentel, San Francisco, CA

Leah’s young son Lawrence suffers from severe asthma. “If the emergency rooms offered frequent visit point similar to credit cards, the Pimentel family would have earned free flights around the world.” See how living in a city with paid sick days has been a literal life saver for her family. Page 21

Shelby Ramirez, 9to5 member from Denver, CO

Shelby rsjpgIn addition to being a mother of two and a grandmother of two, Shelby is a caregiver for her elderly father. She works full-time as a hotel security officer, and is a student at the University of Denver Colorado Women’s College.

When Shelby’s younger daughter and her father needed surgery at the same time, she didn’t hesitate to take care of them. “I had to choose between paying rent or paying for my family’s medications and meals.”  Find Shelby’s story on Page 20



Christine Palm, Chester, Connecticut CT Christine Palm

Christine Palm Considers herself one of the lucky ones, but she “cannot help but think of all the women my age who are not so fortunate: the single mothers, the women who work for minimum wage, the women who do not dare take time off from their jobs for fear of retribution.”  She knows the “peace of mind and heart” would “make us better workers.”  Hear more from Christine Page 20


Connie Ogletree, Atlanta, GA

GA Connie OgletreeEight months ago, Connie woke up one morning with her left breast in extreme pain. She noticed a huge lump which was later diagnosed as a cyst that had become abscessed. Connie’s  options:  forfeit wages because of no paid time off or go into work in pain. She chose the latter. Her shift manager allowed her to leave early that day, as she couldn’t bear the pain.  Find out what happened to Connie: Page 5


Kathleen Fleury, Camden, Maine

Kathleen considered herself lucky to have scraped together 9 weeks of mostly unpaid leave when her first child was born. Now expecting her second child, Kathleen is making more money, but as the primary earner in her family, she can’t afford to take a significant chunk of time unpaid.

“Our society —especially our mothers and our children — can’t shoulder the myriad consequences of inadequate bonding time between mother and baby.” Read more from Kathleen on Page 20


Jerrilyn Heiman, Dobbs Ferry, New York NY Jerrilyn Heiman & dad

Jerrilyn was grateful she was able to use FMLA to care for her father in his final days. “I know when it’s my time to die and I think back about my life, I won’t give a damn whether I was at work or not.”  But the effect of taking upaid leave was significant. Read more about Jerrilyn’s experience Page 16


Melissa Bravo, Raleigh, NC

NC Melissa Bravo famOne woman, three very different birth experiences.  In a new job for her third child, FMLA did not apply.  “I was told my job was not guaranteed,” she said.  Due to the stress of her employment situation, her doctor recommended a medical leave – but work would not allow it. A week later Melissa went into premature labor. Read Melissa’s story on Page 18


Toniquia Douglas, Winston-Salem, NC

Toniquia is an assistant teacher at a day care center who had no paid maternity leave. She had a caesarean section but came back after six NC Toniquia Douglasweeks because she could not afford any more time without pay. She and her husband wound up with a lot of debt. “It took much longer than we hoped and prayed for” to pay it back, Toniquia said. Find Toniquia story on Page 20


Christina Corvin, Marysville, WA

When Christina was pregnant with her son Calvin, she worked at a major pizza-delivery chain next to two 450 degree ovens and stood on her feet for eight or more hours at a time, often with no time for a break saving money for her unpaid maternity leave. When she started having early contractions, her fiancé, Tyler, begged her to stop working. “I could feel our bank account hemorrhaging,” she said. Read Christina’s story Page 16





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