On May 31, 2019, Connecticut's House of Representatives passed a state-mandated paid family and medical leave program. If signed into law by the governor, who reached an agreement with legislators and dropped the threat of a veto, workers will receive 12 weeks off to care for a new baby, ill family members or for their own illness.
The benefits are scheduled to start in July 2021 and include replacement wages on a sliding scale up to a maximum of 95 percent, capped at $900 a week.
You can consult the Connecticut Department of Labor for more detailed information. Also, note that Connecticut state rules apply to employees in Connecticut (as opposed to simply residents who may work in a different state).
Do I have a right to time off for maternity leave?
Unfortunately, the short answer is “maybe." Two different laws cover you but you must determine whether you are eligible for either or both of them:
- A federal law called the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers many employees.
- The Connecticut Family Medical Leave Act (CT FMLA) may also apply to you if you work (i.e. not live) in Connecticut.
FMLA requires employers provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in the year after the birth or adoption of a child. It is gender neutral but in order to qualify, you must meet certain requirements. We have previously summarized what you need to know about FMLA laws and FMLA forms.
What are my rights under Connecticut FMLA (CT FMLA)?
CT FMLA is in some ways more generous in FMLA in that it offers 16 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave within a 24 month period after the birth or adoption of a child. However, it only applies to employers with at least 75 employees and excludes any state or local government employees. The number of employees an employer has is determined on October 1 of any given year.
Other CT FMLA eligibility requirements that differ slightly from FMLA include the fact that you must have worked at least 1,000 hours in the prior 12 months for that employer.
Finally, a major difference between FMLA and CT FMLA is that while FMLA requires that group health insurance benefits are maintained during leave, CT FMLA does not require health benefits to be maintained. That means that employees may be responsible for paying their health insurance premiums during that time and this can be a financial surprise that may require some saving and planning. That said, upon your return to work after CT FMLA, all group benefits (including health insurance) for employees must be restored under the law.
What Happens If I qualify for both FMLA and CT FMLA?
If you qualify for both CT FMLA and the federal FMLA, then your leave periods will run concurrently, meaning you can take 16 weeks as a maximum (not 28 which is 12+16 weeks). Similarly, if your employer offers paid maternity leave, this leave will run concurrently with your FMLA and CT FMLA leave.
Does CT FMLA cover fathers and same-sex spouses and other types of partnerships?
Yes. Fathers and non-biological parents can take advantage of the unpaid leave laws in Connecticut. In Connecticut, the term ‘spouse’ is not exclusive to marriage between a man and woman and includes same-sex marriages and civil union partnerships.
What other rights as a pregnant woman do I have in CT?
If, for some reason, you do not qualify for either FMLA or CT FMLA (because, e.g. you work for a very small employer in Connecticut), there is a possibility your employer will grant you unpaid leave under the pregnancy discrimination provisions of Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA). CFEPA says that it is illegal to discriminate against you because you are pregnant or refuse you a “reasonable leave of absence for your disability” which results from your pregnancy.
Though it is not written in law anywhere, some legal practitioners have observed that employers will grant between 6-8 weeks of unpaid leave (depending on whether you had a vaginal delivery or C-section) because it has become common practice to regard this period of time as a “reasonable leave of absence.” This has been called “pregnancy leave” (as opposed to maternity leave) and is time taken before you have given birth due to pregnancy complications.
Can I receive unemployment income during my unpaid leave?
Generally, no. The eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance require that you are able and available to work, which is by definition not something you are able to do if you are on ‘pregnancy leave’ (defined as unable to work due to pregnancy complications or the birth of your child).
What if my spouse / partner works at the same employer as me?
The maximum amount of time for both spouses to take on a combined basis is the same as for one individual, so under CT FMLA that would be 16 weeks of unpaid time shared between both people, and under federal FMLA that would be 12 weeks of unpaid time shared between the couple.
Can my employer make me use my vacation days and paid time off during my leave?
There is no law requiring or forbidding this but employers can and do require employees exhaust their paid time off and vacation or sick days while first on paid leave.
What are the notice requirements to tell my boss I’m taking leave?
There is no specific time you must begin your family leave under CT FMLA and there is no formal letter required (though you may want to document your announcement in writing for your own purposes). You can tell your manager verbally. They may or may not require a medical confirmation and other documents.
Does all of my leave need to be taken consecutively?
For the birth of your child, generally leave must not be intermittent, unless there is a medical justification or your employer agrees otherwise.