If you work in Maryland, Maryland's Parental Leave Act gives you the right to take time off for parenting, and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting.
In addition, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work, in some cases. Maryland also has a separate law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations (including leave) to pregnant employees.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and laws that require pregnancy leave.
The federal 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 bad back or injured wrist, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
Maryland law also requires employers to make the same leave available to employees who are unable to work because of pregnancy and childbirth that they make available to employees who are temporarily disabled by other conditions. If you are unable to work while pregnant, your employer must treat you like other temporarily disabled employees for purposes of its sick leave and disability leave (or insurance) plans.
Maryland also gives pregnant employees the right to a reasonable accommodation: changes to their position or work rules that will allow them to do their jobs. Reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth might include changes to your work duties, work hours, or work area; providing electrical or mechanical aids (for example, to assist with lifting); transferring you to a position that is less hazardous or less strenuous (such as light duty); or giving you time off from work. Your employer can require you to provide a medical certification from your doctor that the accommodation you request is medically advisable, but only if it requires employees with other temporary disabilities to do the same.
The federal FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work a year for pregnancy (among other things), but it applies only to employers with at least 50 employees.
If you qualify, you may use the FMLA to take time off when you are unable to work because of your pregnancy and/or childbirth. You may also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.) Some states have similar laws that allow employees to take time off while they are unable to work due to pregnancy, but Maryland is not one of them.
The FMLA gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. 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. Note, again, that the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees.
Maryland's Parental Leave Act is intended to provide parenting leave to employees who work for smaller employers. Maryland employers with at least 15 employees (but fewer than 50 employees) must allow eligible employees to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave for parenting. Employees are eligible for this leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and for at least 1,250 hours during the year before taking leave (as is true under the FMLA). In addition, they must work at a job site where their employer has at least 15 employees within 75 miles.
The FMLA allows employees to take their leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary. 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 FMLA parenting leave a little at a time, your employer must agree to it. If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must complete your time off within one year of the baby being born.
Maryland's Parental Leave Act does not address whether or not parents may take their leave intermittently.
If you are married to someone who works for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. (This restriction does not appear in Maryland's Parental Leave Act.) However, whatever portion of your own 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons, including your own serious health condition.
FMLA pregnancy leave and parenting leave is unpaid, as is time off under the Maryland Parental Leave Act. 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.
Your employer may also 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.