Does the Family Medical Leave Act allow a person to take pregnancy leave?

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives eligible employees the right to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per twelve-month period. While employees are on unpaid leave, their jobs are protected and employers may not take any adverse employment action against them on the basis of their leave. When the employee is ready to return to employment, his or her original job must be restored with no loss in benefits. The leave may not be counted against employees under attendance policies, although employers are not obligated to pay bonuses based on perfect attendance, hours worked or products sold.

Pregnancy Leave under the FMLA

The FMLA applies to all public agencies as well as to all private sector employers who have employed more than 50 employees for a total of 20 weeks or more. Leave is available only in specific situations including issues of family need, medical problems, or exigent circumstances due to the active duty military service of a family member. Pregnancy, birth, and pregnancy-related complications are all considered valid reasons why a person may take leave under FMLA rules. There are three different types of covered situations related to pregnancy; pregnancy leave, parental leave and intermittent parental leave.

Pregnancy leave is used in situations where an employee experiences complications during the course of a pregnancy. When a doctor determines that a mother needs to be on bed rest, for example, a mother can take up to the maximum 12 weeks off.

Parental leave is used in situations where either a father or a mother wishes to take time off to care for a newborn baby. Parental leave is available for both birth and adoption situations. This form of leave may be taken any time during the first year that the baby is born or the child adopted.

Intermittent parental leave allows new parents to either work part time or to take some time off during the first year of the baby's life. Intermittent leave can be taken in hourly, daily or weekly blocks of time. This allows for greater flexibility, but intermittent leave situations can be subject to abuse. To combat this, strict regulations exist when intermittent leave is elected. Further, when intermittent leave is used after the birth of a healthy child and not according to doctor's orders, the employer may provide consent at his or her discretion.

Eligibility for Pregnancy Leave

While FMLA leave is permitted for pregnancy, employees must meet basic FMLA eligibility requirements. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, the employee must have been working for the employer for a period of no less than 12 months and must have worked no less than 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the leave. Employers who violate FMLA rules may be subject to action by state Wage and Hour Divisions. Employees may also sue employers in a civil suit for failure to comply with FMLA rules.

If your employer denies pregnancy leave or takes adverse action based on your exercise of your rights under the FMLA, contact an experienced attorney who specializes in labor and employment law issues.    

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