Klobuchar's office retools family leave policy after news report

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speak at a CNN townhall debate on healthcare at the CNN headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 25, 2017. Gabriella Demczuk / CNN

(CNN)Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Senate office scrapped a policy this week that required employees who took 12 weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave to stay at the office for three times that time off once they returned, an aide to the Minnesota Democrat said Friday.

The aide said the office policy -- which was first reported by The New York Times -- was brought to the staff's attention this week and no one was ever asked to abide by it. Once the policy was known, the aide said, it was updated on the staff handbook. According to the Times report, those who left after returning from leave would be required to pay back the money they earned during the weeks they were on leave.
"We never enforced it, it's been changed and I think the overriding story here is we have twelve weeks paid family leave and I think every employer should have that," Klobuchar told CNN Saturday in Greenville, South Carolina.
Asked why the terms were in the handbook, Klobuchar replied, "I didn't write the handbook. It was something from the past. The key is, it was never enforced."
    "We've never once made staff pay back any of their leave and have already changed that language in the handbook," said Elana Ross, press secretary for Klobuchar. "Our office has one of the strongest paid leave policies in the Senate, offering 12 weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave (both adoptive and biological) for our staff."
    There is no blanket family leave policy in the Senate and each senator's office determines its own policy.
    The policy was revealed in yet another report on Klobuchar's temperament and mistreatment of her staff. The Minnesota Democrat has previously said during a CNN town hall that she's pushed people who worked for her too hard and acknowledged that she can be a tough boss.
    "Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes. Have I pushed people too hard? Yes," she said in response to a question from a New Hampshire voter.
    "But I have kept expectations for myself that are very high," she continued. "I've asked my staff to meet those same expectations, and the big point for me is, I want the country to meet high expectations because we don't have that going now."
    Paid family leave has become a central issue for Democrats, who are eager to create a federal paid family leave program, and the issue will likely play a role in the 2020 race.
      Despite differences on how to implement the program, Republicans have also taken interest in implementing a paid family leave program. Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump's daughter and a senior White House adviser, has been publicly advocating for such a program.
      Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who is also running for president, introduced a bill on paid family leave earlier this year. The bill is cosponsored by a host of Senate Democrats either considering runs or running for President, including Klobuchar.
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