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Maternity Leave in Georgia

Posted by Tamara

Many employees wonder if it is legal to terminate an employee for taking maternity leave in Georgia. In most cases, the answer is no, but there are exceptions. 

Eleven states in the U.S. have enacted family leave laws. The laws in these states vary from each other and may provide completely different answers. For the remaining 39 states, including Georgia, maternity leave is covered under FMLA or Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. 

FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees for a variety of medical and personal reasons. Caring for a newborn, a newly adopted child or a new fostered child is among these reasons. FMLA leave can also be taken when an employee is seriously ill (stroke, cancer, etc.) or when that worker needs to care for a seriously ill spouse, child or parent. 

When an employee returns from leave, the employer is required by FMLA to provide that worker his or her previous position, or a position with comparable compensation, benefits and working environment. 

Guaranteeing a person’s job, doesn’t mean the employer has to keep the job vacant while the employee is on leave. The federal government doesn’t expect a business to be short-handed to accommodate an employee’s leave. FMLA’s guarantee pertains only to when the worker returns from leave. 

For example, Carly is one of ten receptionists in a large company. While she is on maternity leave, Carly’s supervisor hires Tonya for the job. Tonya’s work is excellent and the company would like to keep her and terminate Carly. This scenario is probably illegally. Carly must return to her previous job, or to a similar position. 

Carly could be legally terminated while on leave, though, if her company suffered a general layoff. For example, 30% of the workforce was laid off, including 3 of the receptionists. In this scenario, pregnant employees and those on maternity leave are not exempt, so Carly legally be laid off.  

Carly could never be terminated only because she’s pregnant or on maternity leave. That would constitute discrimination and is prohibited under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). 

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