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Maternity Leave in Alabama

Posted by Tamara

There are a number of  states in the U.S. that have enacted family leave laws on the state level including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Alabama is not one of these states, however, and workers are concerned if they can legally be terminated while on maternity leave.

In the majority of situations, the answer is yes. An employer can take any action against an employee on maternity leave that the employer would take anyway, if the employee was not on maternity leave. However, the employee usually cannot be terminated solely because she is on maternity leave under FMLA.

In the states that don’t have their own state level family leave laws, maternity leave is covered under FMLA, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. FMLA allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12-month period. This leave can be taken to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a child recently fostered. FMLA leave also applies when an employee has a serious health condition, or has to care for a parent, spouse or child who is seriously ill.

FMLA leave is job-protected leave. When the employee returns from leave, the employer must provide that worker with either the same job, or a job with comparable compensation, working environment and benefits.

Suppose Sondra, a hotel manager, goes on maternity leave. During her absence, the hotel hires another manager, Mark. The hotel prefers Mark’s management skills and wants to keep him and lay off Sondra. This change is probably illegal. FMLA requires the hotel to either give Sondra her old job back, or place her in a comparable position.

If, however, Sondra is on maternity leave and the hotel suffers a reduction in force, Sondra could be terminated. If the layoff is company-wide and affects others in Sondra’s position, she is not exempt from being terminated.

She is exempt from being laid off specifically because she is on maternity leave. In addition to FMLA guaranteeing Sondra’s job, the PDA (Pregnancy Discrimination Act) prohibits discrimination against a women because she is pregnant.


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