FMLA and Maternity Leave in Texas
Like many other states, Texas does not mandate any kind of maternity or parental leave, paid or unpaid. Generally, employers in Texas are not allowed to treat you adversely for pregnancy-related reasons. (Very small businesses with less than 15 employees are exempt from this rule.)
Although Texas does not have a state law requiring any leave or short-term disability for expecting and new mothers, your employer may offer these benefits. Federal laws also exist to provide protections to many (but not all) Texas families in need of maternity leave.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The United States is one of the only countries in the world without guaranteed maternity leave. Alternatively, federal law requires many employers to grant medical and family leave to certain employees.
The Family Medical Leave Act is a law that allows those who qualify to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without the risk of being laid off or demoted. Although not every employer is covered under FMLA and not every employee is eligible, the Family and Medical Leave Act does provide protections for almost 60% of the American workforce.
For a private sector employer to be covered under FMLA, the business must employ at least 50 people. This includes part-time and seasonal employees, as long as they work 20 weeks out of the year. For an employee to be eligible for leave under FMLA, she must have worked with the company for at least one year, for at least 1,250 hours in the last twelve months. Your workplace must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave for the following reasons:
- recovery from a serious medical condition;
- caregiving for an immediate family member with a serious medical condition;
- bonding time with your new child by birth or adoption;
- caregiving for a family member that was injured during active military service; or
- urgent matters related to a family member’s military service.
Employees can keep their health insurance while on leave, but may be required to pay out-of-pocket for the premiums while they are off work.
Maternity Leave in Texas under FMLA
FMLA allows many mothers to take time off during pregnancy (if needed), while recovering after giving birth, and to care for and bond with her new child. Fathers who are eligible employees are able to take up to 12 weeks of leave as well, to care for and bond with his new child.
You can take your maternity leave through FMLA any time up to twelve months after the birth your child. Some mothers choose to use sick days and vacation time to recover from child birth, and then take FMLA leave later in the year when it works better for their families.
You may also qualify for intermittent leave or a reduced schedule through FMLA. However, employers are only required to grant intermittent and reduced leave if it is medically necessary.
All leave taken for FMLA purposes is unpaid, but your employer can require you to take all available paid and unpaid leave as part of your FMLA leave. For example, if you have saved up four weeks of paid vacation and/or sick days, you might be required to use all four weeks of your paid time off first, then take up to eight additional weeks of unpaid leave.
When you return to work after maternity leave through FMLA, you should be reinstated to the same position, or an equivalent job with the same pay, benefits, and work conditions. If you do not return to work when your FMLA leave is over, your employer may ask you to reimburse the share of health insurance benefits they paid while you were off.
When Both Parents Work for the Same Company
Fathers are granted equal parental leave under FMLA, up to 12 weeks of bonding time with any new child by birth, adoption, or foster care. FMLA leave can be taken any time during the first year of the child’s life, or within 12 months of an adoption or foster care placement.
In most cases, both a mother and father can each take 12 full weeks of leave for the birth of their child. An exception is made when both a father and mother work for the same employer.
If you and your spouse work for the same company, you will only be allowed twelve weeks to be split between you. If a mother needs eight weeks of leave to recover from a cesarean section, her spouse will only be able to take four weeks of parental leave. (He will still be able to take the remaining eight weeks of leave for a different reason, if needed.)
However, this exception only applies to married couples that work for the same employer. If you are not married to your child’s father, both of you will be able to take up to 12 weeks of leave.
Legal Assistance with FMLA Issues
If you are an employer or employee with concerns about FMLA requirements, consider the experienced employment law attorneys at Lindquist Wood Edwards, LLP. Our offices in Dallas and Frisco are eager to hear from you.