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FMLA 101 – Maternity Leave


Posted by Tamara

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, or FMLA, applies to employers with 50 or more workers within 75 miles. The FMLA requires that an employer give an employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period, for one of three reasons:

For the employee’s own serious health condition

For the employee to care for a spouse, parent or son or daughter under 18 with a serious health condition

For the care of a newborn child, a newly adopted child or a newly place foster child, within the child’s first year of birth or placement

Many states like Iowa do not have any family leave law or maternity leave entitlement other than the FMLA.

Under the FMLA, the employee’s group health insurance must be continued on the same basis as it was while the employee was actively at work. The employer must continue to pay their portion of the health insurance premium. Employees can still be required to pay their portion of the premium.

An employee must be returned to his or her job after FMLA ends. If this is impossible, the employee must be returned to a similar job with the same hours, benefits, duties and wages. Usually, this means the same job. However, in some cases the employee can be given a very similar job. Suppose Jose is the manager of a retail store. While he is on FMLA, the store burns down. When Jose returns, he is assigned to a new store with the same hours, benefits and wages as his old job.

An employer cannot terminate an employee for taking FMLA. Nor can time off under FMLA be counted as non-attendance for disciplinary reasons.

An employee taking FMLA for a serious health condition or to care for a spouse with a serious health condition can use the leave either continuously or intermittently. An employer can require that an employee taking FMLA to care for a new child use the leave continuously.

The term “serious health condition” covers many different situations. Mental illness such as bipolar disorder and depression may be a serious health conditions, as well as drug addiction and alcoholism. Pregnancy is always a serious health condition. So are cancer, a stroke, heart attack, etc.

Any health condition that requires hospitalization, surgery, or continuing medical treatment, is usually a serious health condition. 

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