New parents need time off from work to care for their baby. The United States unfortunately offers no form of legally guaranteed, federal paid parental leave, which often leaves workers—especially low wage workers—in an impossible position. But that doesn’t mean there is no recourse: it’s crucial that workers know their federal and state rights, in order to be empowered to approach their employers and exercise those rights, especially in states that do offer paid family and medical leave.
The New York Times Parents published two great guides for workers navigating conversations with their employers regarding parental leave: “How to Ask for Parental Leave When You’re an Hourly Worker,” and “How to Ask for Maternity or Paternity Leave When Your Company Has No Policy.”
Quoted in the pieces are our senior staff attorneys Molly Weston Williamson, Jared Make, and Elizabeth Gedmark, who each spoke with reporter Diane Mehta to share their expertise and advice on how workers in these situations can understand their federal and state rights around parental leave, and approach this potentially-tough conversation with their employers.
The Federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees covered employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Rights to paid leave vary by state: New York, as of January 2018, has among the most comprehensive paid family leave laws.
When talking to an employer about parental leave, we recommend going in to the conversation with as much information as possible: “Talk to employees who have been through it before, bring it up with human resources, check employee handbooks and make sure you’re up on federal and state law,” Elizabeth Gedmark told the Times.
Links to the full articles are below, and for more information, you can reference our state-by-state guide to laws around paid leave, or call our free and confidential legal helpline at 1-833-NEED-ABB.