The Latest Debate: Raising FMLA Maternity Leave Standards in US

Father with his child on FMLA leave
The United States is the only industrialized country without paid maternity leave for new mothers. There is no federal mandate providing paid FMLA maternity leave to working mothers caring for newborns in America. This puts new mothers in an incredibly tough situation, especially when they are the primary income earner or “head of household”.

A single mother and child has it the “roughest” with no paid FMLA maternity leave.

The current regulations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offer a new mother a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious medical conditions and prenatal care associated with the pregnancy and to recover from the delivery and care for her newborn.

Besides the care of a newborn, a woman must recover from the act of childbirth. On top of this, new moms and newborns have a long list of doctors’ appointments, sleepless nights, dedicated times throughout the day and night for breastfeeding (which can cause physical pain if neglected), and adjustments to make before returning to normal hormone levels and regular mental-emotional and physiological balance.

Having a baby is tougher on mothers than America would like to admit.

According to The Atlantic, “When it comes to a new baby or a sick family member, 88 percent of the American workforce has no access to paid leave, and half of new, working mothers are ineligible even for the Family Medical Leave Act’s unpaid leave.”

There are three states in the United States that provide for paid medical leave, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. According to The Atlantic, “Employees (and in New Jersey, employers as well) pay regularly into a fund built onto the state’s temporary disability-insurance program. When workers take leave for births, adoptions, sick relatives, or their own illnesses, they are paid out at a percentage of their typical income.”

California’s paid medical leave program is called the Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) and was the first of such programs taking effect in 2004. It is funded by employees and provides 55 percent of wages for up to six weeks. Of the 1.7 million claims made between 2004 and March 2015, a majority were made by new parents.

Following the implementation of California’s Paid Family Leave Act, the California Chamber of Commerce was expecting the consequences to result in a loss of jobs and heavy burden on employers with $2.5 billion in costs per year. Despite these fears, the worst has yet to happen. In fact, the results showed in a 2011 study that in 90 percent of the firms surveyed, the PFL had a positive effect on things like productivity, morale, and even profits. Not only did the PFL have a positive effect on the ability for workers to arrange childcare, it also doubled the average time new mothers were able to breastfeed their children.

In addition to the three states that already provide for paid family medical leave programs, Washington, Connecticut, and New York are in the process of formulating new paid medical leave programs for new parents and/or caregivers. Despite this, no significant effort has been made to establish a national rule that provides paid FMLA maternity leave to hardworking mothers across America.

Have you been fired or otherwise suffered adverse employment action because of your pregnancy?

The best thing you can do if you’ve experienced pregnancy discrimination is speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Call Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P. A., to set a free confidential consultation today.


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