Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in Missouri, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons. And the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Missouri law both 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 prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and laws that require pregnancy leave.
The PDA 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 other employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for serious illnesses or injuries, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
Like the PDA, the Missouri Human Rights Act mandates that employers treat pregnant employees whose condition makes them temporarily unable to do their jobs the same way it treats employees with other temporary disabilities. This requirement applies to leave policies, but only at employers with six or more employees.
If a Missouri employer's policy doesn't provide leave (or provides insufficient leave), and the employer fires an employee who needs time off, the employer can be sued for discrimination if the policy:
Because only women need leave for pregnancy and childbirth, a blanket policy of providing no (or only a small amount of) disability leave may be illegal under this provision, depending on whether the company can show such a policy is necessary for business reasons.
The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for serious health conditions, including pregnancy. You may also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (The FMLA allows employees to take their leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary. For example, if you have a prenatal check-up, you can use a couple of hours of your leave, then go back to work.)
The FMLA, however, applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. And employees are only eligible for leave if they have worked for the 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.)
Some states have their own laws requiring family and medical leave. However, Missouri is not one of them.
Missouri state law does not require employers to provide parenting leave, but the federal FMLA gives employees in Missouri the right to take time off to bond with a new child as part of their 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use one week of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have eleven weeks left to use for parenting leave. FMLA parenting leave is also available to those who adopt children or take in foster children.
If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA a little at a time (for instance, so that you can work part time instead of full time), you must ask your employer's permission. 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.
And note that 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. 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 leave is unpaid. However, you may ask – or your employer may require you – to use your 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.