Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in Missouri, you might have the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In addition, Missouri law and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) bar your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which might also give you the right to take time off work. And the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) strengthens these workplace protections.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave:
Two federal laws protect pregnant workers from discrimination in the workplace:
Both laws cover employers with at least 15 employees.
The PDA doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. But it does require your employer to treat an employee who can't work due to pregnancy the same as other employees temporarily disabled for other reasons. (42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k).)
For example, if your company lets employees take time off for serious illnesses or injuries (like recovering from surgery or after a car accident), you must be allowed to take the same time off when you can't work because of your pregnancy.
The PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations when an employee needs them due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. (42 U.S.C. § 2000gg-1.) Under this law, reasonable accommodations can include time off work if it's medically necessary.
Like the PDA, the Missouri Human Rights Act requires employers to treat pregnant employees (whose condition makes them temporarily unable to do their jobs) the same as employees with other temporary disabilities. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.055.) This requirement applies to leave policies, but only employers with six or more employees are covered by the law.
What can you do if your Missouri employer's policy doesn't provide leave (or provides insufficient leave), and the employer fires you when you need time off for pregnancy or childbirth? Under the law, you can sue the employer for discrimination if the policy:
Because only women need medical leave for pregnancy and childbirth, a blanket policy of providing no (or only a small amount of) disability leave pregnant women might be illegal in Missouri if the company can't show such a policy is necessary for business reasons.
(Learn when you might be entitled to time off work as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
Some states have their own family and medical leave laws. But Missouri isn't one of them.
Still, you might be able to take leave under the federal FMLA. Under the FMLA, eligible employees have the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for serious health conditions—including pregnancy. (29 C.F.R. § 825.100.) You can also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits.
FMLA leave can be used intermittently if medically necessary. For example, if you have morning sickness, you can use a couple of hours of your leave and then go to work.
But the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. And to be eligible for pregnancy, maternity, or parental leave under the FMLA, you must have worked for your employer:
(Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and childbirth.)
Missouri state law doesn't require employers to provide parenting leave, but the federal FMLA gives eligible employees in Missouri the right to take time off to bond with a new child. Parenting leave is part of your 12-week FMLA leave entitlement.
For example, if you use one week of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have eleven weeks left to use for parenting leave. FMLA parenting leave is also available for adoptions and foster placements.
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 get 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 of your child's birth (or placement in your home).
And note that if you're 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. So, if you use six weeks of FMLA parenting leave after childbirth, your spouse would only have six weeks available for parenting.
But 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, but you can use your sick days, vacation, or PTO to get paid during your time off. Your employer can actually require you to use your accrued paid time off during your leave.
Your employer might also offer other benefits to cover all or part of your time off, such as:
Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.
You could also purchase private short-term disability insurance to cover your pregnancy. Learn more about the costs and benefits of having an SDI policy for pregnancy.
Updated September 8, 2023