Paid Maternity Leave in America

On June 23, 2014, the White House hosted the Summit on Working Families (the “summit”) - the first of its kind.  As with any Governor’s or President’s blue ribbon panel, commission, or summit, the White House had a well-planned press strategy leading up to the event to generate support for the ideas that would be discussed. As the reports, press releases, memos, and executive orders were released in the week leading up to the summit, paid versus unpaid family leave surfaced as one of the major issues that would be addressed.  In a Huffington Post op-ed President Obama wrote, “the United States is the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave.”  (Barack Obama, Family-Friendly Workplace Policies Are Not Frills -- They're Basic Needs, The Huffington Post, 6/23/2014)

The response to this statement focused on whether the statement was true – playing on the assumption that the United States of America could not possibly be last in any category.  In a story published by politifact.com investigating the truth of Obama’s statement, the author states that, based on an International Labor Organization (ILO) report: “It’s pretty clear that the United States provides the fewest benefits to the smallest percentage of its people.”

Every year America finds itself among fewer countries that share the distinction of offering no form of paid parental leave.   The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid leave for families with new children, but it leaves gaping holes in coverage and has not encouraged the appropriate cultural changes to allow men and women to take leave that allows them to adjust to a new child.  According to a Department of Labor study in 2000, 89.2% of establishments in the U.S. are not covered by the FMLA, leaving 41.7% of U.S. employees without coverage.  In addition to many employers in the U.S. not being covered by the FMLA, the requirement that eligible employees must work more than 1,250 hours in the previous year, or 24 hours per week excludes all part-time employees working less than 24 hours per week.

Here is a chart showing U.S. parental leave policies compared to other countries from the Huffington Post:

While America's rights to paid maternity leave are non-existent, the FMLA, Title VII, state protections against discrimination, and other statutes do provide protection against losing your job for choosing to start a family.  If you feel you have been unlawfully terminated, please contact Albrechta & Albrechta for a free consultation today.  Likewise, if you are an employer and are struggling with any employment issue around family leave, pregnancy, or other related issues Albrechta & Albrechta can consult with you to prevent and mitigate your risks of litigation.