Montana's Human Rights Act requires employers to give employees time off for pregnancy and childbirth. And the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives Montanans the right to take up to 12 weeks of 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.
There are a mix of federal and state laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave.
Under Montana's Human Rights Act, all employers must give employees a reasonable leave of absence for the temporary disabilities associated with pregnancy and childbirth. When your pregnancy disability leave is over, you are entitled to be reinstated to the same position you held before leave or an equivalent one, unless the employer's circumstances have changed so much that reinstatement would be impossible or unreasonable. So if your employer is too small to be covered by the FMLA (see below), under state law you may still be entitled to a "reasonable" amount of time off while you are unable to work during pregnancy.
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 employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for injuries or illnesses, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
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. However, the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees, and employees are eligible for FMLA leave only 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.
If you qualify, you can use FMLA leave when you are unable to work because of your pregnancy and childbirth as well as for prenatal care such as routine check-ups and doctor visits. The FMLA allows you to take leave intermittently, if it's medically necessary, instead of all at once. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)
Montana state law does not require employers to provide parenting leave. The pregnancy disability leave requirement covered above applies only during pregnancy and recovery from childbirth; it does not give employees the right to time off for parenting.
The FMLA, however, gives employees in Montana the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether that chld is a biological, adopted, or foster child. This is part of the total 12-week FMLA leave. So, if you use five weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have seven weeks left to use for parenting leave. You aren't automatically entitled to use your parenting leave intermittently, however. If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA a little at a time (for example, by returning to work part-time for a while), your employer must agree to it.
FMLA leave and leave under the Montana Human Rights Act 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 leave 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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