The Family Medical Leave Act requires larger employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for parents when they have a new baby — whether it’s a new biological child or a new adopted child. Arkansas also requires employers to give any benefits they offer biological parents to adoptive parents as well. But how do you know whether you have a right to maternity leave from your employer?

FMLA covered employers

The FMLA is a federal law. It requires all covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to people who need time off for healthy reasons, including a new baby. “Job-protected” means that workers cannot be fired or laid off for taking that time.

The Family Medical Leave Act applies to “covered” employers. That means all state and government jobs and all public schools must provide this leave. Private employers are required to provide family medical leave only if they have 50 or more employees. About 99% of all the companies in the United States have fewer than 50 workers on the books. Crunchbase estimates that more than 1,000 companies in Arkansas have 50 or more employees.

That leaves a lot of local companies that are too small to be covered employers under the Family Medical Leave Act.

If your employer has fewer than 50 employees, they are not required to provide that medical leave.

State requirements for parental leave

Maternity leave and paternity leave are not required in Arkansas state law. Some states require these benefits, but Arkansas does not. Any small business not covered by the FMLA can let workers go if they break the attendance policy because they have a new child at home.

However, many companies do offer parental leave. If they offer it to people who have a new baby, they must offer it equally to adoptive and biological parents.

The fine print

There are exceptions to this rule. The clue is in the phrase “placement of an adoptive child in the adoptive parent’s home.” The law says, “An employer that permits paternity leave or maternity leave for a biological parent after the birth of a child shall permit paternity or maternity leave for an adoptive parent upon placement of an adoptive child in the adoptive parent’s home if requested by the adoptive parent.”

That means that this rule doesn’t apply to families who adopt foster children already in their home. It doesn’t apply to adoption of a stepchild already living in the home. And it doesn’t apply to adoption of someone 18 or over. This rule is for children coming to live in  the home of their adoptive parents.

Know your rights

The owner of a small company may not realize that adoptive parents have a right to the same amount of maternity leave or paternity leave as biological parents. Once you point it out, they will probably be happy to comply. But you have to know the facts before you can ask for the family leave you need. This is just one example of the specialized knowledge that makes the adoption process easier when you are represented by an experienced adoption lawyer.

Heimer Law specializes in Arkansas adoptions. Use our simple contact form to start the conversation.

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