If you’re a pregnant employee in Wisconsin looking to find out whether you qualify for maternity leave, you’re better off than most American women. Wisconsin state law provides unpaid parental leave protections in case you do not qualify for the federal leave law, FMLA.
Wisconsin Laws on Maternity Leave
Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act covers both public and private employees and guarantees both mothers and fathers up to six weeks of unpaid leave in a calendar year for the birth or adoption of a child within the first 16 weeks of that child’s life (or adoption), and up to two weeks of leave in a calendar year for the care of a child, spouse, parent or domestic partner. Employees may also take up to two weeks per year for their own serious health conditions. However, during a 12-month period, employees cannot take more than 12 weeks in a year for their leaves.
If your pregnancy and postpartum recovery create a medical condition which renders you incapable of working, you are also entitled to disability leave if your employer offers it. Though not required under Wisconsin law, your employer must offer this leave to you for pregnancy disability on the same terms as your employer offers to any other employee who is experiencing a physical disability. To be clear, the six week leave period for bonding and child-rearing is a separate leave period and required under law.
How Do I Qualify for FMLA and Wisconsin’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 have employed 50 permanent employees in six of the previous 12 months. To qualify for Wisconsin’s Family Leave Act, you must work for an employer who employs 50 or more permanent employees and have worked with them for at least 1,000 hours for the year prior to taking leave.
How Much Pay Will I Receive During My Leave?
Unfortunately, there’s no requirement under either federal or state law that you receive compensation for any lost wages while you are out on leave. If your employer does not voluntarily provide maternity leave benefits to you, and you have not taken out a short term disability policy covering your pregnancy and postpartum period, you will have to shoulder the financial burden of unpaid maternity leave.
What If I Qualify for Both Wisconsin Parental Leave and FMLA?
The two periods run concurrently and you would receive a maximum of 12 weeks off if you qualified for Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave law. One difference between FMLA and Wisconsin state law is that FMLA leave must be shared by two parents if they work for the same employer, meaning they are eligible for a total of 12 weeks of leave as a couple. However, under Wisconsin law, the two parents are both individually eligible for their own parental leaves.
What Happens to My Benefits While I’m On Leave?
Under FMLA and Wisconsin’s Family Medical Leave Act, your employer must retain your healthcare benefits during your leave and during any pregnancy disability leave, you must also receive the same benefits as provided to any other employee on disability leave.
What about Paternity Leave?
FMLA and parental leave under Wisconsin’s Family and Medical Leave Act are both gender neutral and may be taken by fathers who want to take paternity leave.
What If I have Other Questions or Believe My Employer Is Violating My Rights?
More detail can be found on the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development. To file a complaint with the state’s Equal Rights Division within 30 days of the violation. You can find a link to the form here.
Please note: we are not attorneys and the above summary of frequently asked questions and answers are meant to be a helpful summary but is no substitute for consulting a lawyer if you believe you need to.
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