Tennesee and Federal Laws on Maternity Leave and Pregnancy

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Employees and employers in Tennessee are subject to federal law when it comes to maternity and paternity leave under the Family Medical leave Act, or FMLA. If for some reason you don’t qualify for FMLA, you may also take advantage of Tennessee’s state parental leave law called the Tennesee Family Leave Act which applies to employees of companies or public sector employers with more than 100 employees at a single work site.

FMLA guarantees eligibile employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. Tennessee’s Family Leave Act, on the other hand, guarantees four months of job-protected unpaid leave to cover women who are taking time off for their pregnancy, adoption, childbirth and nursing of an infant.

How Much Do I Get Paid During My Maternity Leave?

Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement that you receive any pay during your maternity leave. Your employer may voluntarily offer this benefit or you may have elected to take out private short term disabilty insurance with an insurance company, but otherwise, you must shoulder the financial burden of an unpaid maternity leave, which may impact how long you decide to take time off.

How Do I Qualify for FMLA and Tennessee’s Family Leave Act?

For FMLA, you must meet eligibility requirements including that you have worked for your employer for 12 months prior a total of at least 1,250 hours and they must employ 50 employees within a 75 mile radius. To qualify for Tennessee’s Family Leave Act, you must be a woman who  works for an even larger employer (with 100 employees). You must also provide your employer 3 months notice (unless there is a medical emergency that was unforeseeable) and you must have worked for the prior year as a full-time employee.

What If I Qualify for Both Tennessee Parental Leave and FMLA?

The two periods run concurrently and you would receive a maximum of 4 months off if you qualified for Tennessee Parental Leave. That law covers adoptions, pregnancy nursing and childbirth. If you qualify for FMLA on other grounds in the first year after your child’s birth (e.g. to care for them if they come down with a serious illness), you can still take FMLA leave.

What Happens to My Benefits While I’m On Leave?

Under FMLA, your employer must retain your healthcare benefits, but under Tennessee’s Family Leave Act, no such requirement exists. Therefore, be careful if you plan on taking four months under Tennessee’s Family Leave Act and make sure to consult with your employer since you may have to shoulder the burden of paying your own full healthcare premium after your FMLA leave period runs out.

What about Men and Paternity Leave?

FMLA is gender neutral and may be taken by fathers. However, in Tennessee, the Family Leave Act does not apply to men though if an employer offers paid or unpaid time off specifically for bonding with a new child, that benefit must be offered to both women and men, equally.

What If I have Other Questions or Believe My Employer Is Violating My Rights?

You may consult Tennessee Human Rights Commissions Pregnancy FAQs or file a complaint with them.

Please note: we are not attorneys and the summary we've provided of frequently asked questions and answers is no substitute for consulting a lawyer if you believe you need to.


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