Maternity Leave in Iowa: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
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Do I Receive Maternity Leave in Iowa?
For women who are employees in the state of Iowa, there is no paid maternity leave required by law, per se. Your employer, of course, may voluntarily choose to offer this benefit. However, you are entitled to the same federal protections for up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid time off under a federal law called the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if you are eligible (see more below).
If you don’t qualify for FMLA, you may also be entitled to up to 8 weeks of unpaid time off under Iowa state’s anti-discrimination law (Chapter 216 of the Iowa Code) for pregnancy disability if you qualify for that. However, it is not clear whether your employer must allow you to return to your job after the leave period is over.
Am I Eligible for FMLA?
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 here.
Am I Eligible for Pregnancy Disability Leave Under Iowa State Law?
Iowa law prohibits employers with four or more employees from denying a woman’s request for up to 8 weeks of unpaid leave to address a physical disability due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Leave must be granted by an employer regardless of your tenure on the job (i.e. there is not requirement that you have worked a previous amount of time), or hours previously worked. However, your employer must employ at least four or more employees. These rules make it easier to qualify for unpaid leave due to pregnancy and childbirth if you are a new employee or work at a small company that doesn’t fall within the FMLA rules.
What Is The Process for Applying for Unpaid Leave Under Iowa State Law?
You must request your employer grant you leave and have a medical doctor request such accommodation. Your employer may require that a medical certification be provided to them. If an employer uses any other procedure to screen other employees’ ability to work (e.g. regarding their inability to work due to a a sickness or disability), then an employer may have the same process for those seeking pregnancy disability leave.
So I Will Not Receive Any Pay During This Time off?
Unfortunately, unless your employer voluntarily covers your salary during your leave or you have privately taken out short-term disability insurance prior to conception, your leave is unpaid. Consider these tips to cope with an unpaid maternity leave.
What Other Rights Do I Have Under Iowa’s Pregnancy Discrimination Law?
Pregnancy is regarded as a temporary disability under Iowa law and must be treated the same way as other disabilities under any employer’s policies. Reasonable accommodations must be provided to allow pregnant employees to perform their job. Moreover, an employer cannot fire you or refuse to hire you because you are pregnant so long as you are able to perform the major functions of your job.
What If I Work for the Government?
In Iowa, state workers may take advantage of the same pregnancy disability leave provisions under the anti-discrimination laws such that you may request up to 8 weeks of unpaid pregnancy disability leave. You face the same tenure, employer size and hours requirements but there is no guarantee that you will be able to return to the same job you had prior to taking your leave.
Where Can I Find More Information About Pregnancy Disability Leave?
The Iowa Department of Human Rights has put together a fact sheet providing further details about pregnancy discrimination and your rights under the Iowa state law as well as FMLA.
What Happens To My Benefits While I’m Out On Leave?
Under Iowa state law, health insurance provided by an employer must cover expenses for conditions related to pregnancy on the same basis as other medical conditions. When you are actually on leave, you must be treated in the same manner as other temporarily disabled employees when it comes to the accrual and payout of benefits such as healthcare, seniority, pay increases and vacation accrual.
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 federal FMLA that would be 12 weeks of unpaid time shared between the couple. Iowa’s pregnancy disability leave only applies to a pregnant worker, so it would not apply to partners or spouses. Technically it does not apply to adoptive parents, nor those having a child through adoption or surrogacy.
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 many employers can and do require employees exhaust their paid time off and vacation or sick days before using their unpaid leave allowance. So long as your employer treats your unpaid leave on the same terms as any unpaid leave taken by others with a temporary disability, they are complying with Iowa state law.
What If I Qualify for Both FMLA and Leave Under Iowa State Law?
Unfortunately, these leave periods run concurrently which means you will receive a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave (not 8 weeks + 12 weeks).
What If I Believe My Rights Have Been Violated?
You can report any suspected violations to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
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