The question of whether Donald Trump provides paid maternity leave for any of his 22,000 employees should be easy enough to answer. But if women at the Trump Organization do receive paid time off after the birth of a child, no one, least of all the Trump Organization, is saying.
The Republican presidential nominee has said little about paid family leave during his campaign and does not have an official position, according to his website. When asked about paid family leave by Fox Business News’ Stuart Varney in October, Trump offered, “Well, it’s something that’s being discussed, I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it, but certainly there are a lot of people discussing it.”
At the Republican National Convention, Trump’s daughter and company vice president, Ivanka Trump, argued that her father would be a champion for women’s rights—“as president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce”—and spoke specifically of the Trump Organization: “Women are paid equally for the work that we do,” she said. “And when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.”
Politically, it makes sense to talk about it now when polling suggests some 72 percent of Americans support a national standard for paid family leave.
“We know these issues are incredibly popular with voters,” said Vivien Labaton, founder of Make It Work Action, an advocacy group for typically Democratic issues like child care and family leave. “These are the issues people fall asleep at night worrying about,” Labaton said.
What Ivanka’s speech means, in terms of Donald Trump’s personal history with providing leave to his employees, is less than clear.
The Daily Beast reached out to the Trump presidential campaign, the Trump Organization, and Ivanka Trump, to ask about the family-leave policy at the Trump Organization. A representative from Ivanka Trump’s brand replied quickly to say that employees of the former model’s small fashion and lifestyle shop were provided with eight weeks of paid leave. (Ivanka Trump was criticized recently by The Washington Post because the company that designs and distributes her clothing line does not provide its workers with maternity leave.)
“In addition, since we have flexible working hours with a focus on results rather than face time, we are supportive of all working moms who some days may need or choose to work from home,” she said. “My colleague Melissa, cc’d, can advise on Trump Org.”
After three follow-up emails, Melissa from the Trump Organization wrote back: “We will have no further comment.”
As an alternative to the tight-lipped corporate communications department, The Daily Beast reached out to over 100 former employees to ask about the company’s family-leave policy. Most were unwilling to speak, several citing nondisclosure agreements that Trump requires of almost all of his employees, from valets at Mar-a-Lago, to executives, to makers of “Make America Great Again” hats—legally binding documents that Trump is often aggressive in enforcing.
“I would love to talk to you about [Trump’s maternity-leave policy],” one former spa worker at Mar-a-Lago said. “But I’ve signed so many confidentiality agreements that I can’t say anything.”
Of the nine ex-employees who were willing to speak, only one was able to recall any maternity leave—in this instance, it was apparently unpaid leave—being offered at the company, although none of them could say conclusively that no such leave was offered.
“I don’t know anything about how they handle working mothers,” said Barbara Res, who oversaw the building of Trump Tower and worked as an executive at the Trump Organization for nearly two decades, starting in 1980.
“It was just the beginning of whether it was legal to fire a pregnant person,” Res said. “I can tell you, they didn’t have any HR department when I worked there.”
Another woman, who worked for the Trump Organization in 1986, said, “There was a girl in our office who was pregnant, and she kept working there. I would imagine she had a baby, but see, I can’t remember.”
“We had a pregnant woman. They threw her a baby shower and they gave her days off,” said Dalya Ebrahimian, who said she loved working as a project coordinator for the Trump Organization in 2007, but was unsure about specific family-leave policies, the amount of time her pregnant co-worker took off, or if she returned.
“I honestly don’t know,” Ebrahimian said.
Instead of being surprised with a baby shower, Liliana Hernandez-Corniel said when she was six months pregnant, her boss at Trump University called her into his office and fired her.
“If anything I would have liked to be given the heads-up. I just came in like I usually did and was fired after lunch.
“It was quite a blow,” Hernandez-Corniel said. “It’s not like I could apply for a new job anywhere else. I handed in my ID and keys and went home. The only thing I could do was file for unemployment.”
Hernandez-Corniel had worked at Trump University for three years, and at the time of her firing in August 2010, the writing was on the wall for Trump University—the for-profit real-estate seminar business is currently the defendant in three separate lawsuits alleging it defrauded students out of their life’s savings in exchange for worthless courses taught by unqualified instructors. Trump University effectively stopped operations in 2011.
As for maternity leave, Hernandez-Corniel says no one mentioned it to her. “I told them at four months. No one said anything about their maternity-leave policy and I was afraid to ask, which is crazy.”
The Trump Organization declined to comment on Hernandez-Corniel’s firing.
Al Kare, a waiter for the past 20 years at the Taj Mahal casino—which Trump has not owned since 2009—said his wife did receive time off after the birth of her children.
But “it wasn’t paid,” Kare said. “Bernie [Sanders] wanted paid maternity leave. That’s why I was a Bernie guy.”
Searching for an online mention of Trump’s family-leave policy also proved fruitless. Online job postings for the Trump organization don’t include a list of benefits. Websites for Trump hotels do boast “an unsurpassed benefits package,” which for full-time employees includes health benefits, tuition reimbursement, and a retirement plan. All employees can apparently enjoy complimentary golf, uniform laundry services, and an internet café. Trump resorts advertise much leaner offerings. No such career site exists for the Trump Organization headquarters.
One former employee who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation said that benefits and human resources at the Trump Organization were handled by an outside group, called Insperity. Citing the “confidentiality of our business relationships,” a representative from Insperity declined to comment on whether they provide benefits for Trump employees. But according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Trump’s campaign is an Insperity client.
Of course, this fact brings us no closer to Trump’s maternity policy.
Only two women have spoken publicly about their maternity leave at the Trump Organization. While their statements provide little insight into the actual corporate policy, both were noticeably brief.
Carolyn Kepcher, who declined to comment for this article, had worked for Trump for a decade—overseeing some 250 Trump Organization employees as his executive vice president and appearing as his original assistant on The Apprentice—when she gave birth to her second child in 2004. Three weeks later she was back to work. In a 2004 Dateline interview, Kepcher explained why she waited until she was six months pregnant to break the news to her boss.
“Maybe in my mind he might think this would perhaps be a setback or ‘Maybe I’m going to have to bring somebody in to replace her throughout her pregnancy or when she takes her maternity leave,’” Kepcher said.
Trump seemed to agree.
“Well, you know, pregnancy is never—it’s a wonderful thing for the woman, it’s a wonderful thing for the husband, it’s certainly an inconvenience for a business,” Trump told the Dateline reporter.
And when asked whether Kepcher may have felt pressured to return so early lest she be replaced, Trump called the idea “interesting.”
“Maybe she should feel that way a little bit,” Trump said. “But the fact is that would not have happened.”
Kepcher was in fact fired in 2006 for “losing her focus,” according to Trump’s book Think Big, and replaced on The Apprentice by Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who if length of maternity leave is any indicator, was a much better fit.
Ivanka Trump gave birth to her third child in March of this year, and was back in heels introducing her father on the campaign trail 10 days later.
“You know, she had a baby like five days ago,” Trump said after her introduction. “She did a good job. So I should not say ‘Ivanka, you’re fired,’ right? I promise. I promise. I promise.”
In 2004, then-22-year-old Ivanka Trump talked about taking off for summer vacation while at Wharton, telling W magazine, “My dad doesn’t believe in vacations, and the rest of my life I’m going to work. When else will you have three months off—maternity leave?”
Not even, it seems. Ivanka was back at work two weeks after her second son’s birth.
Trump’s executives’ micro-leaves aren’t necessarily a result of the maternity policy at the Trump Organization. Ivanka Trump has said that when it comes to work she “channels her mother,” Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana who—as detailed in Ivanka’s 2009 book, The Trump Card—took an unbelievable one-day break from her job at the Grand Hyatt hotel after the birth of Donald Jr. in 1977.
And not supplying paid maternity leave is perfectly legal. It wouldn’t even make Trump an outlier. Only one in 10 private employers report offering paid leave, though 40 percent of workers say they take some kind of paid break following the birth of a child, leading economists to believe employees are working with management to cobble together time off outside of an official policy.
When it comes to a family-leave policy for employees inside the Trump Organization, one can only guess. But many people are saying Trump may not be offering paid maternity leave at all.
Gideon Resnick contributed reporting.