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Chobani joins movement for paid family leave

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Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya has given employees at his company, including 1,000 in Twin Falls, access to paid family leave starting in 2017. | U.S. Dept. of Commerce

TWIN FALLS — Nearly 1,000 Chobani employees in Twin Falls will have the option of six weeks’ paid family leave starting in 2017.

The yogurt company joins companies such as Johnson and Johnson and Netflix in offering paid family leave. A handful of states – including California and, as of Tuesday’s election, Washington State – now have paid sick-leave laws. Chobani’s CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said he came to the decision after becoming a father himself.

Roger Sherman, director of the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund, called it an empathetic move on Ulukaya’s part.

“It’s harder for people who are working on the floor of a factory to take time off unless you’re given that permission by your boss,” Sherman said. “And I’m sure it costs the company, but I think it pays the company back in so many ways because of the morale it builds, the support it gives for those new parents – and really, for the future of those kids.”

Only 12 percent of private sector workers in the U.S. have access to paid parental leave through their employers, according to the Department of Labor.

Sherman said research on California’s paid leave law has shown it helps prevent child abuse, too. A study published in the journal “Injury Prevention” found a significant drop in the number of cases of abusive head trauma, also known as Shaken Baby Syndrome, since California enacted its law. It’s the leading cause of maltreatment deaths among young children.

Sherman said the law has helped reduce the major risk factors that lead to child abuse.

“If families don’t have a lot of stress in those early parts of raising a child, they’re less likely to run into all the stresses and strains that it takes when you need to get a child somewhere – and that child’s crying and you’re not sleeping, and you’re dealing with all of those pressures,” Sherman said. “Some of of those pressures get taken away with paid parental leave.”

Sherman recommends parents visit the website, which provides tips on how parents can calm their babies – and keep themselves calm when babies cry.