State FMLA Regulations
State Maternity Leave Laws: Protect Your Rights
State maternity leave supplement several of the federal regulations such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and others. Protect your rights by learning how the rules apply to your work situation.
There are fourteen states that have these additional job protection benefits that may be used during a pregnancy disability, and/or maternity leave. But the rules, requirements, qualifications, and eligibility guidelines vary based upon where you work. What to look for:
State Family Leave Size Requirements
The Federal family leave law pertains to any organization that employs fifty or more employees working within a seventy five mile radius of the worksite. This requirement works great for employees working from a headquarter location, but not as well for workers in branch offices, telecommuters, and other remote workers. Also, the fifty employee cut off eliminates quite a few small businesses and their employees.
The state level regulations provide broader employee size requirement thereby providing job protected leave to a greater number of workers. Some rules set the requirement at fifty employees nationwide without the location criteria in the federal rule, which opens things up for remote workers. Others simply have a lower number of employees as the criteria.
Employee Qualifications: Hours Worked, Family Makeup
For the federal legislation employee qualifications for family leave involve the number hours worked during a specified time frame, and includes definitions for who qualifies as a family member.
State laws sometimes expand the pool of covered workers by lowering the hours worked qualifications. There may be fewer hours worked over a twelve month period, or a shorter window of time. In some cases part time employees may be able to qualify. Also those who may have suffered a period of unemployment may now qualify. This is helpful for seasonal workers in particular.
The federal rule allows for leave to care for a child, parent, or spouse. Many states expand upon this family definition and may include: domestic partners, civil union partners, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents in law.
Length of Leave Guidelines
The federal legislation allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The various equivalents sometimes extend this time, but sometimes in different ways. The most obvious time guideline is simply stated in the length of time allowed for job protected leave. Some allow for more, others for less.
Digging a little more deeply you may find that your state and federal rights may run concurrently, or sequentially. Taking the two concurrently means the job protected leave time frames overlap. You will only extend the time if the state allows for longer leave.
Sometimes you can take leave sequentially which allows for more time away from the job. This happens most frequently during a pregnancy disability leave. The federal legislation allows for job protected leave for your own disability, or to take care of a sick family member. You might use the federal leave during the time before childbirth.
Some states restrict use of the leave only for care of a sick family member, or to bond with a baby, but not your own disability. At first blush this appears restrictive. In reality, many mothers find they can take the two different leaves sequentially: one leave for her disability, a second to care for her infant.
Health Benefits Policies While on Leave
The federal legislation requires that employers continue health benefits on the same basis as other working employees. This means any premium payments made on behalf of employees will continue. But most employers share in the cost of health benefits. While on leave, the worker must continue making payments on her share, but now using after tax dollars which actually may cost much more.
Some states have a similar policy, while others don’t. Either way many couples are shocked to find out how much their employer was contributing towards medical coverage costs. People often complain that COBRA coverage is too expensive. It is often much higher than what they used to pay, and budgeted to pay. But in reality it represents the true cost of coverage - without the employer contribution.