The Family and Medical Leave Act gives eligible employees the right to up to 12 weeks of protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Probably the most important part of FMLA leave is the “protected” aspect—the right, when your leave ends, to be restored to your old job or an equivalent position. Unfortunately, that is not always as straightforward as it sounds, and many employees have been surprised by what was waiting for them at the end of their FMLA leave. An employer that does not return you to work as required by law may be liable for interfering in your FMLA rights.
Having a child, especially your first, is an exciting time but also one that presents seemingly endless questions and challenges. One of the most common concerns for all new parents is how to juggle their careers with the new responsibilities of being a parent to a newborn child. Inevitably, parents will have to figure out who will stay home with the baby, for how long, and what impact this will have on the family’s finances.
Over the past few decades, the traditional fixed gender roles of parents have progressed. This welcome change has recognized both a mother’s valuable role outside the home as a breadwinner, as well as a father’s role at home with the children. Along with this shift, lawmakers are beginning to address a father’s need or desire to stay home with his newborn baby and also to take care of the mother .
Texas, unfortunately, is somewhat behind the curve as it pertains to paid paternity leave. In fact, only a few states currently offer paid paternity leave. Of course, this does not stop an employer from offering paid paternity leave on their own. And if an employer chooses to make paid paternity leave available for some employees, it must be provided in a non-discriminate manner without regard to an employee’s age, race, or religion. Unpaid paternity leave is a different matter and is available to many Texas fathers under the federal government’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
For many Texas employees, monetary pay is only a part of the overall compensation package offered by employers. For employees who have children or care for a sick family member, the paid- and unpaid-leave benefits provided by many employers are just as important as one’s salary or wages. Unfortunately, Texas employers are not required under any state or federal law to provide paid-leave benefits to employees, except under certain circumstances.
As a general rule, a Texas employer can decide whether to offer benefits to its employees. There are times, however, where an employer is required to provide certain benefits to its employees. One example is where an employer’s written policy provides benefits to employees, but the employer denies a qualifying employee access to these benefits. The Texas Payday Law states that an agreement to provide paid or unpaid leave is an enforceable term of the wage agreement. Thus, an employer who may not be required by law to offer benefits becomes obligated to provide them if there is a written policy offering benefits to qualifying employees.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Civil Rights Act) was monumental in that it provided crucial rights to many people who had been denied equal treatment for many years. While the Act prohibited discrimination based on certain bases, other bases were left uncovered. One area of Texas employment discrimination the Civil Rights Act did not solve was pregnancy discrimination. Following the Civil Rights Act, employers continued to discriminate against women on the basis of their pregnancy. When it came time to explain their seemingly discriminatory behavior, employers routinely claimed they were basing their actions not on the sex of the employee (which was prohibited under the Act) but instead on the fact that the employee was pregnant. This was an unfortunate but accepted distinction for 14 years.
In 1978, however, things changed for the better with the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. Technically, the PDA was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The text of the PDA was short, and the message was straightforward. Essentially, discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, child birth, or related medical conditions” was considered sex discrimination. Thus, an employer could no longer discriminate on the basis of an employee’s pregnant status, since doing so would amount to sex discrimination.
Half of the workforce is female, but only 12% of women have paid maternity leave, according to the United States Department of Labor. The United States is the only industrialized country around the globe that doesn’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave, even though studies show health benefits to children, mothers, and fathers when parental leave is provided. Paid maternity and paternity leave make sense both economically and from the standpoint of health.
Infant mortality is reduced by up to 10% in 141 countries with paid leave policies. This leave allows for infants to receive necessary medical care and vaccinations during one of their most vulnerable times of life.
Parental leave also increases how long mothers feel comfortable breastfeeding. Mothers who receive paid leave breastfeed for twice as long as those who don’t get leave. Since breastfeeding decreases the likelihood of infection, asthma, obesity, and SIDS, there are benefits for the health care system in improving the chances of a mother being able to breastfeed comfortably for a longer duration.