Maternity Leave Rights in Florida

Although Florida has no maternity leave law, new parents in Florida can often take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Many states have their own laws giving pregnant women and new parents the right to take time off. But Florida isn't one of them. Expecting and new parents in Florida might still be entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Although Florida's Civil Rights Act of 1992 was amended in 2015 to include protections for pregnant employees, the law stops short of requiring employers to provide time off for pregnancy or childbirth. (Fla. Stat. § 760.10 (1).) Still, if you work for a covered employer (with 15 or more employees) and your employer allows other employees to take time off for other medical conditions (like cancer treatment or broken bones), you should be allowed to take time off for pregnancy and childbirth under this law.

Pregnant employees are also protected from discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which might also entitle them to time off in some circumstances. And the 2023 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) strengthens these protections.

Family and Medical Leave in Florida

The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off per year for things like:

  • 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 you can use your accrued paid leave (such as sick days or vacation time) to get paid during FMLA leave. Once your FMLA leave is over, you're entitled to be reinstatement to the same position. And, while you're on leave, your employer must continue your group health coverage (as long as you continue to pay your portion of the premiums).

Which Employers Are Covered by FMLA?

Not all employers have to comply with the FMLA. The law covers only companies that have at least 50 employees (for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year). Smaller employers don't have to comply.

Are You Eligible for FMLA Leave?

If you work for a covered employer, you're eligible for FMLA leave if all of the following are true:

  • you worked for the covered employer for at least a year
  • you worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year for the employer, and
  • you worked at a company location that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Allowable Reasons for FMLA Leave

Pregnant employees can use FMLA leave for prenatal care and for periods when their condition incapacitates them. For example, if you're suffering severe morning sickness or your doctor has put you on medically required bed rest, you can take FMLA leave.

New parents can use FMLA leave to care for and bond with their new child. Parental leave is available for all the following:

  • biological children
  • adopted children, and
  • foster children.

How Much FMLA Leave Can You Take?

Employees can take a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave per year for all covered reasons. So, if you use a week of leave throughout your pregnancy for doctor's visits and treatment and you take off the last two weeks of your pregnancy, you'll still have nine weeks of FMLA leave to use as maternity (parental) leave.

You can take FMLA leave intermittently—for example, working half days or only a few days a week—for parenting, but only with your employer's permission. Learn more about using FMLA leave for pregnancy and parenting.

Can Spouses Use FMLA Leave for Pregnancy or Parenting?

Only women can take FMLA leave for pregnancy, of course. However, their spouses can use FMLA leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. So if you suffer complications or you're otherwise incapacitated by pregnancy and require care, your spouse can take FMLA leave.

But parenting leave is equally available to men and women. In fact, one of the FMLA's goals was to make it easier for men to take paternity leave, both to spend time with their children and to share childcare responsibilities.

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 you take four weeks of leave while incapacitated by pregnancy, you and your spouse will still have a combined 12 weeks of parental leave to divide as you wish. But if you've already taken four weeks of leave during your pregnancy, you can't take more than eight weeks of parental leave—which would leave your spouse with four weeks of available parental leave. You could also choose to take six weeks of leave each.

How the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Protects Florida Moms

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) doesn't require employers to provide pregnancy or parental leave. But if your employer already makes leave available for other temporary disabilities, the same leave must be available to you if you can't work due to pregnancy.

For example, let's say your employer grants short-term paid leave to employees who've had heart attacks or have other health conditions that prevent them from working. Thanks to the PDA, your employer must also grant you paid leave if you can't work because of your pregnancy.

The PDA prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. Your employer can't fire or demote you simply because you're pregnant. Your employer also can't require you to stop working due to pregnancy if you're physically able to do your job.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

You might be entitled to take time off work for pregnancy under the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). The PWFA covers private and public sector employers with at least 15 employees. Employment agencies and labor organizations (unions) are also covered by the PWFA, as are federal agencies.

The PWFA requires covered employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" if you need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Under this law, reasonable accommodations can include time off work.

(Learn when your right to time off work as a reasonable accommodation is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

Protect Your Maternity Leave Rights In Florida

If your employer has denied you FMLA leave improperly or discriminated against you because of your pregnancy, you might 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.

Updated July 20, 2023

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