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Paid Maternity Leave Laws

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees of covered employers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave with continuation of group health insurance coverage. Employees will continue to be covered by this same insurance under the same terms and conditions as if they had not taken leave. They may take the 12-week leave for either the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth; or to take care of a newly-placed child for adoption or foster care with them within a year of the placement. If the employee has already used the leave for another reason including difficult pregnancy, it may be counted as part of the 12-week FMLA leave.

Is maternity leave paid for? If so, what percentage of salary do they usually pay?

There are very few companies that offer paid maternity leave, though some companies may allow you to use short-term disability or accrued vacation time. You may use the FMLA, which allows you to take 12 weeks of leave, but this leave is unpaid.

If an employee is out on paid maternity leave and is taking both vacation and sick leave, does her FMLA start after all those paid benefits are exhausted or is it concurrent with that leave?

Employers prefer employees taking all ancillary leave along with the FMLA leave for two main reasons. First, FMLA leave is unpaid and this allows for employees to get paid for at least part of the time they are on leave. The other reason is to ensure that employees do not end up taking more than 12 weeks of leave (FMLA of 12 weeks plus up to four weeks of vacation and sick leave). Most employers would therefore certify FMLA as soon as the criteria are met. Of course, an employee may take leave concurrent with FMLA or consecutively as they please.

I wish to take the additional 12 weeks FMLA along with my 6-week maternity leave. But my employer expects me to use my accumulated vacation time to run concurrently. Is this lawful in Kentucky?

Neither the Federal law nor the Kentucky state law requires an employer to pay fringe benefits including vacation leave or pay. Therefore, usage of accrued vacation time is at the discretion of the employer or based on the terms of the contract or existing company policies. It follows that the employer may insist on the employee using their vacation time concurrently with their FMLA. This allows employers to assist their employees by replacing their income with their vacation and sick leave in the place of unpaid FMLA leave. As long as the employer is acting within the terms of the company policies, there would be no violation of law.

My company's policy for maternity leave is six weeks paid and six weeks unpaid time off. However, I was asked to resign for wanting to take additional 14 weeks of unpaid time off. Is this legal?

The Federal law only requires your employer to grant you 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the birth of your child. Thus, the employer may terminate you for any additional leave you require or if you fail to report to work post the 12-week leave granted to you. Any extension of your leave is an agreement between the employee and the employer on a case to case basis.

My West Harrison-based company does not offer paid maternity leave. I heard I could qualify for some sort of disability. Whom do I call?

You are perhaps referring to the Short Term Disability, which covers your salary, or a portion of it, is offered by several large employers and unions as well as states. You may take this leave for child birth, any illness or injury. Typically, this is provided automatically without employees or residents having to sign up for it.

In PA, is it legal to give mothers paid maternity leave (whether for birth or adoption) but not give paid leave for fathers?

Here, it is important to understand the difference between pregnancy leave and parental leave. Pregnancy leave is a medical leave that is grated for reasons concerning pregnancy-related disability whether before or after the birth of the baby. On the other hand, parental leave is granted for care of the child whether natural-born or adopted.

Parental leave often referred to as maternity leave and is typically offered only to women. Employers who have 50 or more employees are required to allow up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave. To avoid inviting a claim under the federal or state anti-discrimination laws, you may establish parental leave that allows same leave benefits to both male and females upon the birth of a child.

The Department of Labor website clarifies who is entitled to the parental leave as follows: “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid leave for the birth or placement of a son or daughter, to bond with a newborn or newly placed son or daughter, or to care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition.” Often, conflicts with employer’s policy on leave leads to ligation. In such cases, it may be useful to ask a Legal Expert to be sure of your legal standing.
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