Maternity Leave Laws

Protect your parental rights

As an expectant mother, you know you have rights - but what exactly are they? Perhaps your friend in Minnesota told you she had to pay for her own health insurance during the time she had off, but one of your coworkers said that doesn't apply in your state. Or maybe you know that your sister in Rhode Island received 60 percent of her regular paycheck when she was off, but remember reading somewhere that other mothers receive far less.

All 50 states and Puerto Rico must comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA).Its basic regulations guarantee eligible new mothers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.

You are eligible under the FLMA if:

  • You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours.
  • There are at least 50 employees at your company.

However, many states have added their own regulations to be more generous to new mothers. For example, Hawaii extends benefits to all working women, no matter how small the employer or how infrequently they work.

A few points for consideration

  • Temporary employees are not usually covered, so be careful with the terms and titles associated with your job.
  • Many states have different laws for childbirths and adoptions, and adoptive parents will be required to submit paperwork for proof of adoption.
  • If you have other children, you may be eligible for additional benefits.

How to assert your rights without negative repercussions from your employer

  • Do your research and be comfortable with the laws in your state.
  • Print out the regulations so you can reference them easily in a meeting with your employer.
  • If you are comfortable doing so, speak with your employer well before you plan to leave, explaining your situation and setting out a proposed timeline for your remaining months or weeks.
  • Offer to work some overtime before you leave to train your replacement and create a plan to make the transition as easy as possible.

For additional information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor's website on Leave Benefits: