Local law firm recognized for being father-friendly

Authored By chloe.morrison

Fatherly has recognized the law firm of Baker Donelson-which has more than a dozen offices around the country-as one of the 50 best workplaces for new dads. 

“The reason I’m not in the office right now is I’m going to my son’s tennis match in Murfreesboro,” Rusty Gray, head of Baker Donelson’s Chattanooga office, said during a phone interview. “So I’m doing the fatherly thing.” 

The recent report from Fatherly, a digital parenting resource for men, highlights the best paternity benefits offered by leading companies in the United States, focusing on factors that create a positive workplace for working dads and parents, according to a news release. Click here to see the entire report. 

The report highlighted Baker Donelson for its paternity leave policy. The firm has a gender-neutral policy that allows for three weeks of paid leave for nonprimary caregivers. It can be taken consecutively or used over a 20-week period, according to a news release. 

And primary caregivers are eligible to take 16 weeks of paid leave, which can also be taken consecutively or used intermittently over a 40-week period.

The report was built on work done by the Boston College Center for Work and Families and other resources. The companies chosen were selected on criteria such as paternity leave, workplace flexibility, family support programs, company benefits, company culture, job security and business growth, also according to the release. 

Before Gray started at Baker Donelson, he was a clerk for a judge and got to meet several young men who had children and worked at Baker Donelson, he said. When he eventually interviewed with the firm, he learned about how it was family-friendly. And he thought, “This is what I’m looking for,” he said. 

“They work hard, but they also value family time and family obligations,” he said. “It was those lawyers that I modeled myself after.”

In the ’90s, lawyers took pride in working the longest hours. Gray said he heard stories of a lawyer who bragged about missing the birth of his child. But those days are gone now, he said. 

In general, newer trends and articles discuss working smarter, not necessarily harder. Click here for an example. 

Tennessee state law requires that businesses with more than 100 people offer certain employees-including males-time off for a birth or adoption of a child. But it doesn’t have to be paid leave. 

Other local companies offer varying paternity leave policies.  

For example, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has a parental leave-of-absence policy that applies to both mothers and fathers.

It allows up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers and fathers in Tennessee. During the unpaid leave period, fathers can use available paid time off to help offset costs of not working. Mothers can do the same, but they can also use short-term disability.  The company also offers quarterly maternity classes for expectant mothers.

At First Tennessee Bank, there are 10 days per year of paid leave for male and female employees for birth, maternity, adoption or foster care. The company will also help with adoption costs. 

“We also offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for care of a child, spouse or parent per year,” First Tennessee Bank Market President Keith Sanford said via email. 

The company also has a classroom visitor program that offers up to three hours paid time for a parent or grandparent to visit and help in their child or grandchild’s school, he said. 

And depending on job responsibilities, there can be flexible scheduling and work-from-home options at First Tennessee. 

“Here in Chattanooga, I have a parent with school-age children who leaves most days at 3 p.m. to be home with their children after school,” he said. “We have another with a special needs child who squeezes five days into four to take Fridays off to be with the child. These are both women, but the option is open for men. We can’t do this for every job but try to be as flexible as we can to help and keep our good employees.”

Updated @ 4:22 p.m. on 5/26/15 to correct a factual error describing details of BCBST’s parental leave policy.