You are having a baby. Congratulations! If you are a working mother and are expecting a child, you have rights with respect to your employer. The Evergreen State provides certain protections to expecting mothers regarding how long they can take time off from work, how they will return to their jobs, and other rights.
Washington State Family Leave Act
Under the Washington State Family Leave Act, or the FLA, you have rights. First, the FLA is not applicable to all employers. It is applicable to an employer:
- Who has 50 or more employees;
- And those employees must be working at least 20 weeks of the year, which need not be within a calendar year;
- The employee’s worksite is within 75 miles of the employee’s residence.
As such, a woman who works as an administrative assistant for a small but highly successful real estate company may not be protected under the FLA. Even if the company generates millions and millions of dollars a year, an employee would not be FLA protected if the company employs less than 50 people. By contrast, a company that performs HVAC services that employs more than 50 people but has significantly smaller revenue than the real estate company would be subject to FLA protection.
Next, the employee who gives birth and wants FLA benefits must be working for that employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months need not be consecutive. In addition, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for that employer within the past 12 months. Thus, an employee who has been working for an employer for less than 12 months is not FLA-protected.
This is applicable to both parents, even the one who did not give birth. If it is to care for the child, either parent may take FLA to leave. Even if the child is not a birth child, i.e. for an adoption or foster child, a parent is entitled to leave under the FLA provided other requirements are satisfied.
Also, note that an employer has no obligation to pay the employee during the leave period. While the FLA bars adverse employment actions, which includes terminating the employee’s employment status, the FLA does not impose paid leave time. Paid leave is allowed. In 2020, paid leave for giving birth will become the law.
In general, leave time for a mother giving birth is 12 weeks. This is applicable for “normal” births. However, when there are complications associated with the new mother, the law provides 24 weeks of protected leave. This period can begin six weeks prior to the birth when the pregnancy is complicated.
The FLA extends to domestic partners in addition to married couples.
Are you facing adverse employment action because you are requesting or have requested maternity leave in the state of Washington? You have rights and legal protections. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys for a case consultation.