My Maternity Leave Rights
June 2024
My Maternity Leave Rights

For almost all American women, pregnancy is an amazing, life-changing moment. For many women, their jobs accommodate them with maternity leave up until and after delivery.

But unfortunately, accessing maternity leave can be problematic for some. If your employer denies your maternity leave employee rights, you should talk to a lawyer through LegalShield’s personal Legal Plan to talk through your options. But first, you should learn more about your federal, state, and local maternity leave laws.

Following are details that are helpful to know about maternity leave.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is a type of leave that allows new mothers to take time off from work to bond with and care for their newborn child. It can be paid or unpaid, depending on the employer and the employee’s situation.

Paid maternity leave is rare in the U.S. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, but this law only applies to companies with 50 or more employees. A small minority of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and even fewer have access to paid maternity leave.

Government employees, however, automatically receive 12 weeks of paid parental leave according to the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act that went into effect in October 2020.

Maternity leave laws vary from state to state. Some states have their own laws that provide paid maternity leave in certain situations.

What are my maternity leave rights?

The federal law that requires employers to provide maternity leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons.

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and for 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the leave. A covered employer is a private employer with 50 or more employees, a public agency, or a public or private elementary or secondary school.

The FMLA only applies to new mothers who need time off to bond with their newborn child. According to the DOL, adoptive parents do qualify.

The FMLA also requires that the employee’s job be protected while they are on leave. This means that the employer must hold the employee’s job open for them and cannot give it to someone else. When the employee or independent contractor returns from leave, they must be given their job back or a comparable job with the same pay and benefits.

FMLA does not require employers to pay employees while they are on leave. However, some employers choose to do so anyway. Employers are not federally required to provide paid maternity leave under state or local laws either.

What laws apply to maternity leave?

While we’ve learned about the FMLA, there are some other federal laws to consider, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Most states have laws specific to maternity leave so check with a lawyer in your state to learn your rights.

Problems taking maternity leave?

If you’re having problems taking maternity leave, there are a few things you can do. First, you should talk to your employer. They may be unaware of the maternity leave employee rights in their state, or they may have a policy that is more generous than the law requires.

If you are still having problems, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees.

Before you file a complaint, you should consider hiring a lawyer to represent you and improve the chances of a successful claim. Find the right lawyer with a LegalShield personal plan and speak to an experienced lawyer that can assist you in getting the justice you deserve.