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Q. My company offers 10 weeks paid maternity leave. Recently, a male employee asked whether he could take maternity leave. I said no, only women are eligible to take such leave. Was I right? —K.R., Maryland

A. No. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and most states prohibit gender discrimination. Accordingly, unless “maternity leave” is tied to the company's short-term disability policy and is provided solely for recovery from childbirth, the employer that provides paid leave for the birth of a child must provide such leave to all employees, male and female.

Note also that some states, including Maryland, require employers that offer maternity leave to provide such leave equally to employees who adopt a child. Of course, the federal FMLA and state equivalents require some employers to provide a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Check these statutes for eligibility requirements.

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