If you work in Maine for a larger company, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. Maine also has its own Family Medical Leave Act, which applies to smaller companies as well, so it covers a wider number of people.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Maine's pregnancy discrimination laws also prohibit your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work, in some cases.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws that require pregnancy leave and laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.
The federal FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy and/or childbirth (including prenatal care such as routine check-ups and doctor visits), but it applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding their leave. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)
In addition, Maine has its own family medical leave law, called the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements Act (MFMLRA). The law is similar to the FMLA in that it allows employees to take time off for pregnancy. However, there are a couple of important differences between the two laws when it comes to pregnancy leave:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. However, it does require employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for other temporary disabilities, like a broken leg or a long illness, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
Maine has a similar law prohibiting pregnancy discrimination. Although it does not require employers to allow all pregnant employees to take time off, it does require employers to treat pregnant employees who cannot work just as it treats other employees who are temporarily unable to work. If it provides leave to other employees, it must make the same leave available to employees who are pregnant.
The FMLA also gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child, including biological, adopted, and foster children. This is part of your total 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave.
Maine's family medical leave law also gives you the right to take parenting leave. As under the FMLA, parenting leave is part of your total ten weeks off every two years.
The FMLA allows employees to take their pregnancy leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary. (Maine's family medical leave law works the same way.) For example, if you have a prenatal check-up, you don't have to take a whole day off; you can use a couple of hours of your FMLA leave, then go back to work. The same is true for pregnancy-related ailments that don't last all day. If, for instance, you have morning sickness that lives up to its name, you might need a few hours off in the morning, but be able to come to work by lunchtime.
For parental leave, however, the rules are different. If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA or Maine's family medical leave law a little at a time—for example, by returning to work half-time for a while, or by taking some of your leave when the baby is born and some at a later point when your partner returns to work—your employer must agree to it. You aren't automatically entitled to use your parenting leave intermittently. If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must finish your time off within one year after the baby is born.
FMLA leave and leave under Maine's family and medical leave law is unpaid. However, you may ask—or your employer may require you—to use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your time off.
However, your employer may offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.
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