Knowing Your Rights For Time Off Due to a Pregnancy or New Born, April 2013, by Attorney Angela Reddock

Knowing Your Rights For Time Off Due to a Pregnancy or New Born
Your employer must grant you a number of rights when you are an expecting or have just had a child. Use these tips to have a smooth and successful pregnancy leave from your work.

You’re looking forward to your new bundle of joy, but perhaps a little stressed about how you will manage your new arrival along with your job? Wondering if you will be able to take time off to be with your baby, but unsure if your job will be open to you when you return? Don’t fret—both the federal law and many state laws provide parents protected time off for the birth of, and bonding with, his/her newborn.

Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against or treating a woman applicant for employment or employee unfavorably because of her pregnancy or due to childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. It is also unlawful to harass a woman because of her pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

When it comes to pregnancy, maternity and parental leave, under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), new parents (including foster and adoptive parents) may be eligible for 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave (depending on the employer’s policy) for the birth or care of a new child. Generally speaking, to be eligible, employees working in the private sector must:

Work for an employer that has 50 or more employees and works at a location that has at least 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the employee’s work location;
Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months; and
Have at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12-month period immediately prior to the leave.

The exciting news is the pregnancy and FMLA laws are available to both male and female parents, although primarily utilized by female parents. While most parents take his/her leave of absence in 12-consecutive weeks, some employers allow parenting employees the option of taking the leave intermittently or on varying days over a specified time period. To qualify, most employers generally require employees to provide paperwork from his/her doctor verifying the need to be out for pregnancy, birth or a pregnancy related-condition or paperwork certifying a foster care or adoption process.

Although the discrimination and leave laws are designed to protect parenting employees, a successful leave of absence requires the employer and employee working together to ensure the optimal outcome both for the employee and the employer. To ensure a successful pregnancy leave of absence, you should work with your employer to:

1. Provide as much advanced notice of your need for a leave as soon as possible (even if you are a woman and your pregnancy is showing). Due to legal considerations, your employer is not likely to say anything about your pregnancy to you personally. So help your employer by being the first to notify the employer of your pregnancy and your need for a leave of absence).

2. Provide the paperwork from your doctor as soon as possible, specifying the dates of your anticipated leave of absence.

3. Do your best to clear your desk and complete your assignments prior to your leave. If you are not able to complete all of your assignments prior to your leave, make every effort to ensure the work is delegated or allocated to another co-worker. This ensures a smooth transition and seamless flow in your absence.

4. Within a week of your leave ending, contact your employer to confirm your intent to return to work on your anticipated return date or to inform the employer of any possible change in your leave dates or status.

5. Upon your return to work, thank your employer and co-workers for their support in your absence. This will show goodwill on your part and will show you appreciate your company’s efforts to support good parenting, even though they are required to do so by law.

Additionally, many companies have very liberal policies that provide rights and benefits above and beyond those required by the law. Be sure to read your company’s employee handbook and other policies. You can also meet with your human resources professional to ensure you are aware of all of the benefits and options available to you as a parenting employee. There are even new and expanding laws that protect women in breastfeeding upon their return to work. We will discuss those next time! In the meantime, enjoy the process of creating and adding to your family!


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