Maternity and Parental Leave Laws in Minnesota

Many Minnesota employees have the right to pregnancy and parenting leave even if they work for small businesses.

By , J.D.
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If you work in Minnesota, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave law also allows employees to take time off when they have children. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also 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. And, Minnesota has a state law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees.

Reasonable Accommodations During Pregnancy

When employees are working while pregnant, Minnesota gives them the right to reasonable accommodations: changes to their position or work rules that will allow them to do their jobs. (This law applies only to employers with 21 or more employees.) Employers must provide more frequent breaks, seating, and a lifting limit of 20 pounds, without requiring you to show that your health care provider has advised you that such accommodations are necessary. In addition, your employer must provide other accommodations, such as transfer to a less strenuous position, if you request them on the advice of your health care provider or doula, unless they would create an undue hardship for your employer.

Unpaid Time Off During Pregnancy in Minnesota

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.

Family and Medical Leave

The federal FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy and parenting leave (among other things). The FMLA 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 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.)

Minnesota law also gives employees the right to take pregnancy and parenting leave. Like the FMLA, the state law allows employees to take up to a total of 12 weeks off for pregnancy disability and parenting. Unlike the FMLA, however, state law applies to smaller employers (those with at least 21 employees). You are eligible for leave if you have work for at least 12 months, and have worked at least half time for the past year for your employer.

If you are eligible for both federal and state pregnancy and/or parental leave, you have a right to only 12 weeks of leave total.

Pregnancy Discrimination

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off, but employers must 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 an injured hand or a bad back, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work. Minnesota law includes a similar requirement. These laws can help those who don't qualify for time off under FMLA or Minnesota's pregnancy leave law.

Unpaid Parenting Leave in Minnesota

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 FMLA 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.

Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave law works the same way: You are entitled to a total of 12 weeks for pregnancy disability and for parenting. Minnesota law requires you to begin your parental leave within 12 months of your child's arrival. If your child has to stay in the hospital longer than you do, you must begin your parenting leave within 12 months of your child's discharge from the hospital.

Part-Time or Reduced Schedule Leave

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—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. If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must complete your time off within one year after the baby is born.

Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave law does not address whether or not parents may take their leave intermittently. However, the law does state that you may return to work part time during the leave period without forfeiting your right to return to your former position when your leave is over.

Parents Who Work for the Same Employer

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 Minnesota's parenting leave law.) 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.

Under the FMLA, this limit applies only to parents who are married to each other.

Getting Paid During Your Time Off in Minnesota

Time off under the FMLA and Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting 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.

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.

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