Florida Maternity Leave – Protections for You and Your Family

June 2, 2020

Maternity leave is the time that a mother takes off from work for the birth or adoption of a child. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries that doesn’t have this benefit by law, and due to the fact that employers aren’t legally required to provide this, few elect to give their employees paid pregnancy leave.

There are four states—California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York—where state law mandates paid family leave for employees. As you can see, Florida is not on that shortlist.

However, some Florida companies offer paid time off for expecting mothers and their partners, but most working women in Florida must use short-term disability, sick leave, vacation, personal days, along with the federal law to get time off with a new child.

If your employer in Florida offers paid maternity leave, that absence will run at the same time as your Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. And if your employer offers leave (paid or unpaid) for other medical conditions, illnesses, and disabilities, it must offer leave for pregnancy-related issues.

How Does the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Work?

Those who are expecting or who have just welcomed a new-born or adopted baby in Florida may be entitled to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition, pregnant employees are protected from discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

The FMLA provides eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off per year for medical reasons, including pregnancy, and to bond with a new child. This leave is unpaid; however, an employee can use any of their accrued paid leave (PTO, sick leave, or vacation time) to continue to receive a paycheck during FMLA leave.

The FMLA is applicable to all employers with 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year. FMLA is available for biological children, adopted children, and foster children.

Employees can take a total of 12 weeks of leave per leave year, any valid reason. For example, a pregnant employee is entitled to take five days of leave throughout her pregnancy for doctor’s visits, but then if she is unable to work for the last two weeks of her pregnancy, she will have only nine weeks remaining of FMLA leave to use.

Pregnant employees are able to apply their FMLA leave for prenatal care and for periods when they are unable to work due to their condition, such as the effects of difficult morning sickness or in the event that their OB-GYN orders them on bed rest. They can also use FLMA for complications relating to childbirth or pregnancy.

FMLA for pregnancy may also be taken intermittently if this is approved by the employer.

While on leave, the employee is entitled to continuation of group health coverage, and when her leave is concluded, the employer must reinstate her to the same position.

Florida does not have any regulation that extends the time or expands the eligibility of the federal laws, and state law does not require any wage replacement. As a result, unpaid time off in Florida can be for 12 weeks or not at all.

Am I Eligible for FMLA?

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must meet four requirements. The employee must:

  1. Work for a covered employer;
  2. Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months as of the date the FMLA leave is to begin;
  3. Have at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12-month period immediately prior to the date the FMLA leave is to begin; and
  4. Work at a location where the company employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles of that worksite as of the date when the employee gives notice of the need for leave.

While only women are eligible to take FMLA leave for pregnancy, their spouses may take FMLA leave to care for the pregnant woman if she suffers complications or is otherwise incapacitated by pregnancy and needs care.

How Much Notice Must I Give My Employer about My FMLA Leave?

The FMLA requires employees to ask for leave no less than 30 days before taking it. In addition, the FMLA says that eligible employees may be required to give sufficient information about why leave is needed.

When the need isn’t foreseeable, such as when a complication develops prior to birth, notice must be given “as soon as practicable.” That usually means one or two business days.

When an employer wasn’t notified that leave was taken for FMLA reasons, but the employee wants it counted that way, notice must be given by the employee within two days of returning to work.

How Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Work?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any part of employment, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, along with leave and health insurance.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t require employers to give pregnancy or parental leave, but if an employer already makes leave available for other temporary disabilities, it must make the same leave available to employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy. 

Does the Florida Human Rights Act Provide Pregnancy Leave?

While there no leave under the Florida Human Rights Act, this law prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of marital status and sex. This law was amended to specifically prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy in 2015.

An employer cannot fire or refuse to hire any person, or to discriminate with respect to pay, terms, or working conditions or privileges on the basis of pregnancy. It’s unlawful to restrict, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in a manner that would deprive a person of employment opportunities or adversely affect her status as an employee on the basis of her pregnancy.

The FHRA covers employers with 15 or more employees.

What Happened to the Proposed “Florida Family Leave Act”?

In late 2019, legislation was introduced called the “Florida Family Leave Act,” which would require companies to allow employees who have worked at the business for at least 18 months to take paid family leave for up to three months after the birth or adoption of a child.

However, the Senate version died in the Commerce and Tourism Subcommittee in March of this year; likewise, the House version died in the Business and Professions Subcommittee. 

Can I Get Short-Term Disability For Maternity Leave?

Florida law does not require that employers provide their employees with short-term disability pay in a temporary absence from work. In addition, Florida doesn’t have state-sponsored short-term disability coverage.

There are some companies in Florida that have short-term disability insurance policies that pay workers some of their salaries if they’re required to take short-term disability because of an injury or illness. If an employer doesn’t offer this as a benefit to cover time off during pregnancy, employees will have to buy a policy through a private insurance carrier. However, most of these cover only serious medical conditions and incapacity related to pregnancy.

If you are considering purchasing your own short-term disability insurance, it’s important to note that typically employees must procure coverage at least nine months before they give birth as pregnancy is classified as a pre-existing condition. As such, most insurance companies won’t pay claims during the exclusionary period.

Typical short-term disability insurance policies cover between six and eight weeks, based upon the type of delivery. They usually pay between 50%-100% of an employee’s salary.

Contact an Experienced Employment Lawyer

If your employer has denied you FMLA leave improperly or discriminated against you because of your pregnancy under state or federal law, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer can tell you whether your claim has merit and what steps to take to protect your rights. An experienced FMLA lawyer may be able to help you obtain compensation for your treatment and injuries. Contact an experienced Tampa pregnancy discrimination lawyer at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC.

At Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, our legal team is dedicated to the pursuit of justice for the people we represent. Our law firm has more than 100 years of combined experience successfully representing clients in personal injury law. We operate differently than many law firms and always put the best interests of our clients first. Contact us today.

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