Few Americans have employers who give them paid family leave.

Jeannine Sato of North Carolina didn’t have paid leave, but figured she’d be covered for unpaid maternity leave under federal law when she had her first child.

She was unpleasantly surprised.

Sato described in a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday how her employer, a federally funded non-profit group that she didn’t name, declined to give her unpaid leave, a compressed work schedule or the opportunity to work from home after her daughter, now 7, was born.

The organization claimed an exemption under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for births, adoptions and care for sick family members.

“I was dumbfounded by the circumstances people were in when they had children,” Sato told the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, chaired by Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and part of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

In an interview afterward, Hagan said she called the hearing “to encourage more companies and small businesses in the U.S. to understand that it really will benefit their bottom line” if they provide paid family leave, contrary to what many company leaders think.

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