The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides important protections for employees in the United States. If you or a loved one is expecting a child, it is especially important to understand what FMLA leave entails.
Knowing your rights under FMLA can help you support your family during a pivotal time. This knowledge can also prepare you in the event that your employer exhibits signs of pregnancy discrimination.
Eligibility for FMLA leave
FMLA leave is not available to all employees. To be eligible, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and accumulated 1,250 working hours during that time. Additionally, your employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your workplace.
Pregnancy as a qualifying reason
Pregnancy is a qualifying reason for FMLA leave. This means that if you meet the eligibility criteria and need time off due to your pregnancy or childbirth, you can request FMLA leave. You have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.
One of the primary benefits of FMLA leave is job protection. When you return from your leave, your employer must reinstate you to your previous position or an equivalent one. This means you can take the necessary time off to care for your newborn or recover from childbirth without fear of losing your job.
You do not have to take your FMLA leave all at once. If your medical condition or that of your child requires it, you can take FMLA leave intermittently. This allows you to take leave in separate blocks of time, which can be helpful for prenatal medical appointments or postnatal care.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports the receipts of 2,273 pregnancy discrimination charges in 2022. If your employer violates your FMLA rights during your pregnancy, you might also have valid grounds for filing a discrimination claim.