Many working DC women who also plan on having children want to know what kinds of employee rights they have relating to maternity leave. As society continues to see social progress with equality and blurring of the lines between gender roles, many propsective fathers have questions about paternity leave, as well. The good news is that regardless of any employer-specific policies, federal law protects the rights of new mothers and fathers to take maternity or paternity leave.
The federal law relating to paternity and maternity leave is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition to covering maternity and paternity leave, it also applies to taking leave from work to care for a family member suffering from a serious health condition or taking leave from work to care for the employee's own health condition. The benefits guaranteed by the FMLA are up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave that can be used in certain situations. The employee's job is protected during the leave and the employee is able to return to his or her job at the end of the leave period.
In relation to parenthood, a mother can use the leave for prenatal care, during pregnancy or after the birth or adoption of a child. A father can use the leave to care for a spouse requiring care due to pregnancy-related conditions or after the birth or adoption of a child. The leave can also be used in relation to foster care placements.
In order to qualify for maternity or paternity leave under the FMLA, the employee must have worked for the employer for a non-consecutive period of at least twelve months prior to taking the leave. In the twelve months preceding the leave request, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours. However, the benefits guaranteed under the FMLA only apply to employees of certain employers. In order to be covered by the FMLA, an employer must be either a public agency (such as federal, state, or local governments) or must be a private employer with 50 or more employees.
Source: DOL.gov, "Wage and Hour Division (WHD): Federal vs. the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Laws," accessed on Feb. 22, 2015