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Parental Leave Under Both Federal And Maryland Law: The Basics

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thatcher logo.jpgExpecting a new child should be a time for joy and excitement -- and not a time wasted worrying about losing your job simply because you want to spend more time with your child.

Fortunately, both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Maryland Parental Leave Act (MPLA) protect parents' jobs when they choose to take time off to care for a newly born or adopted child -- although each law has its own limitations and requirements.

FMLA or MPLA -- What are their similarities and differences?

Under both the FMLA and MPLA, new parents can take time off from work without fear of losing their jobs, although it is important to point out that the time off is UNPAID. Some of the situations in which parents are eligible for leave under these laws include:

  • The birth of a child to the employee
  • The adoption of a child by the employee
  • The placement of child with the employee through foster care

While the two laws are very similar in purpose, it is crucial to remember that they do have some very important differences, including:

  • The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave a year, while the MPLA provides 6 weeks of unpaid leave a year
  • The FMLA applies to employers with at least 50 employees, while the MPLA applies to any business with at least 15 employees

Regardless of whether you are taking time off under the FMLA or MPLA, however, one thing remains the same: Your job is protected and your employer cannot retaliate against you for taking time off and exerting your legal rights.

So who is eligible?

While very similar, the eligibility requirements for the FMLA and MPLA are slightly different.

FMLA eligibility:

  • You work for a covered employer;
  • You have been employed by your employer for at least 12 months;
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months; AND
  • You work at a location that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

MPLA eligibility:

  • You have been employed by your employer for at least 12 months;
  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months; AND
  • You work at a location that has at least 15 employees within 75 miles

What about my company's parental leave policy?

Keep in mind, even if you are eligible for leave under the FMLA or MPLA, individual companies may have their own internal policies when it comes to parental leave benefits. For instance, your employer may require you to use your accrued paid leave first, including your vacation/PTO days and sick days.

Alternatively, your company may offer short term disability, or even a comprehensive parental leave policy in which your entire time off is paid.

While every company may be different, it is important to know that if your employer does provide you with some form of paid leave, you may be required to substitute this paid time off for the leave you would have otherwise been eligible for under the FMLA or MPLA.

Not sure about your rights? Help is available.

As you can imagine, this blog barely scratches the surface of these very important laws, which is why it should not be relied upon as legal advice. Should you have any questions, or believe your employer may have violated your rights, your best course of action is to contact an experienced employment law attorney.

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