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Maternity Leave in Colorado

Posted by Tamara

Many employees wonder “Can a Colorado employee be terminated just because she is on maternity leave?”

The answer is no. Terminating an employee specifically because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is discrimination, and is prohibited by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and other laws.

There are circumstances, however, where an employee on maternity leave could lose her job.

For example, Amanda is a buyer for a large Colorado retail store. While she is on maternity leave, her employer suffers a setback in sales and is forced to reduce the workforce by 50%, including 4 buyers. Since the layoffs are company-wide and affect others in Amanda’s position, she could be terminated, even while on leave.

Generally, though, a Colorado employee on maternity leave under FMLA cannot be terminated because she takes maternity leave.  In all 50 states, maternity leave is covered under FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993). FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for various medical conditions, including caring for a newborn, a newly adopted child or a recently fostered child.  Eleven or more states also have family leave laws at the state level.

Job-protected leave means that FMLA guarantees the employee’s job while on leave. When the worker returns to the job, the employer must provide that worker the same job, or a job with similar pay, benefits and working conditions.

Suppose Amanda is on maternity leave and her employer fills her position with another buyer, Jackie. When it’s time for Amanda to return from leave, the employer wants to keep Jackie and terminate Amanda. The employer cannot legally make this change. FMLA guarantees Amanda her old job or a comparable position.

Note that FMLA applies in 39 states in America. The remaining eleven states, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washing and Wisconsin have enacted their own family leave laws. These laws may vary from FMLA and from each other. Employees in these states should contact their state’s Department of Labor about their maternity leave rights.


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