Paid Family Leave Not a Reality for Most Employees

September 18, 2018 – Despite the absence of a federal requirement, some U.S. employers have expanded their employment benefit policies to include paid family leave to their employees who are new parents. In Minnesota, several private and public employers now offer anywhere from two to 12 weeks of paid family leave as a benefit, including Target, 3M, Cargill, Land-O-Lakes and U.S. Bank, as well as public entities, such as the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), and the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.


General Mills recently announced it will begin offering up to 12 weeks of paid leave to all new parents beginning next year, with an additional six to eight weeks of paid leave to birth mothers for recovery—all at full pay. But the reality is, only 13% of Americans have access to paid family leave benefits. And low-income workers, who make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and are more often African-American or Latino, are the least likely to have access to them.


The U.S. is the only major industrialized nation that does not require paid parental leave to new mothers and fathers. While federal legislation has been proposed, only five states have passed laws requiring employers to offer paid family leave: California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and Washington. That means, in most states, there is no job protection for paid family leave and the policies are legally unenforceable. However, there are federal and state job protections for unpaid family leave.


My employer doesn’t offer paid family leave. Am I entitled to unpaid leave?


Yes, even if your employer does not offer paid family leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires all covered employers to provide unpaid family leave. Under the FMLA, “covered employers” (employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius) must provide “qualified employees” (employed at least 12 months and worked in excess of 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period) up to 12 weeks of protected unpaid time off for the birth of a child or adoption, as well as to care for a sick family member or to care for their own health.


The Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act offers similar protections but covers more employees. It requires employers with 21 or more employees at at least one site to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who have been employed at least 12 months and performed work equaling at least one-half the full-time equivalent position during the preceding 12-month period.


What if I qualify for both FMLA and the Minnesota Parental Leave Act?


Employees only have a right to 12 weeks of leave, even if they qualify for leave under both FMLA and the Parental Leave Act.


Is my job protected while I’m on unpaid leave?


Yes, employees who take unpaid leave under either the FMLA or the Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act must be returned to the same or similar position, with the same hours, pay, benefits and seniority as they had prior to the leave.


Contact Our Minnesota Employment Discrimination Lawyers


Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is committed to protecting the rights of all employees, including those facing employer violations of parental leave laws. If you believe your rights have been violated, contact our employment law attorneys for a free case assessment by clicking here or calling us at 612-252-3570.


For more on parental leave, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, please see the following articles: