What is FMLA? Maternity Leave in the United States

What is FMLA?

Most mothers-to-be simply cannot wait to tell friends and family about their pregnancy, but few eagerly await the opportunity to share the news with their managers. At some point, you will have no choice but to do so, and at that point you can take great comfort from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Who is Eligible for Maternity Leave Under FMLA

Under the FMLA, you are eligible for pregnancy disability or maternity leave if you have:

  • worked for your employer for at least 12 months over the course of your life;
  • worked at least 1,250 hours, which translates to about 24 hours a week for 52 weeks; and (not or)
  • work at a location where at least fifty employees are posted within 75 miles.

If you or your employer do not meet one or more of these conditions, the FMLA does not provide for you, but your state may guarantee you short-term disability pay. Otherwise, your only option is to piece together your maternity leave from your sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time.

How Much Maternity Leave Does FMLA Grant?

Employees who are eligible to take advantage of the FMLA have 12 weeks of maternity leave at their disposal, but there are a couple of catches. It may or may not be paid. Our federal government does not require that your employer offer paid maternity leave. If you do need to draw your pay while on leave, your employer may allow you to use your accrued vacation, comp time, and/or sick leave as part of your maternity leave. In fact, some employers require that you do.

What Protection Do You Have After Returning to Work Under FMLA?

Once you return to work, you should find yourself in the same or an equivalent position, but if you would have been laid off or otherwise terminated had you worked during your maternity leave, the law does not require that your benefits be continued or that you be reinstated. You accrue no benefits or seniority while on leave, but you are protected from the use of FMLA leave as a negative factor in hiring, promotion, disciplinary actions, and bonus assignment based on position rather than performance.

Conclusion: Understand Your Rights and Make a Plan

Before sitting down with your manager to let them know of your impending need for maternity leave, spend some time thinking about what you need to communicate to your boss at this time in your life. Ask yourself not only how much leave you want and when and how you want to take it, but also what you want your schedule to be like when you return.

If your employer gives you a hard time about taking leave or tries to discourage you from doing so, remember that the FMLA outlaws any interference with your taking advantage of your rights under the law, and solicit the opinion of an attorney in your community who can inform you not only of the federal law and standards but also of applicable state laws.

Lindsey Bruce

Lindsey is Mom to Eleri and Henry. Starting with a degree and then numerous Higher National Diplomas, Lindsey has been studying and working in the field of Ethnobotany for twenty years. She has a special interest in traditional plant-based healing and plant chemistry. After Lindsey was asked to contribute educational writing she discovered a passion for writing and once her children were born she started writing even more educational content and has since enjoyed writing about a broad range of subjects.

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