Many states have their own laws giving pregnant women and new parents the right to take time off; however, Florida is not among them. Expecting and new parents in Florida may still be entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees who are pregnant are protected from discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which may also entitle them to time off in some circumstances.
The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off per year for their own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and to bond with a new child. FMLA leave is unpaid, but employees may use their accrued paid leave (such as sick or vacation time) to get paid during FMLA leave. Once the employee's leave is over, the employee is entitled to reinstatement to the same position. And, while the employee is on leave, the employee is entitled to continuation of group health coverage.
Not all employers have to comply with the FMLA. Only employers that have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year are covered by the law. Smaller employers don't have to comply.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, for the employer. The employee must also work at a company facility that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Pregnant employees may use FMLA leave for prenatal care and for periods when they are incapacitated by their condition (for example, if they are suffering severe morning sickness or their doctor has put them on medically required bed rest). New parents can use FMLA leave to care for and bond with their child. Parental leave is available for biological children, adopted children, and foster children.
Employees may take a total of 12 weeks of leave per leave year, for all reasons. So, if a pregnant employees takes a week of leave throughout her pregnancy for doctor's visits and treatment, then is unable to work for the last two weeks of her pregnancy, she will have only nine weeks of FMLA leave to use as parental leave.
Only women may take FMLA leave for pregnancy, of course. However, their spouses may take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, if the pregnant woman suffers complications or is otherwise incapacitated by pregnancy and requires care. Parental leave is equally available to men and women; in fact, one of the goals of the law was to make it easier for men to take paternity leave, both to spend time with their children and to share the responsibilities of childcare.
If both parents work for the same employer and are married to each other, they can be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of parental leave. (This limit doesn't apply to unmarried parents.) However, leave for a serious health condition is counted separately. For example, if a woman takes four weeks of leave while incapacitated by pregnancy, she and her husband will still have a combined 12 weeks of parental leave to divide as they wish. Because the woman has already taken four weeks of leave, she may not take more than eight weeks of parental leave, which would leave her husband with four weeks off. They could also choose to take six weeks of leave each.
Employees may take intermittent leave—for example, working half days or working only a few days a week—for parenting only with the permission of their employer. For more information, see our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and parenting.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn't require employers to provide pregnancy or parental leave. If an employer already makes leave available for other temporary disabilities, however, it must make the same leave available to employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy. For example, if an employer grants short-term paid leave to employees who have had heart attacks or have other health conditions that prevent them from working, it must grant the same leave to pregnant employees who are unable to work.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. An employer may not fire or demote an employee simply because she is pregnant, nor may an employer require a woman to stop working due to pregnancy if she is physically able to do her job.
If your employer has denied you FMLA leave improperly or discriminated against you because of your pregnancy, you may want to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. A lawyer can tell you whether your claim has merit and what steps to take to protect your rights.