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Must you allow FMLA leave before childbirth?

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in Centerpiece,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Some employers mistakenly believe that women who want to use FMLA leave when they become pregnant can’t demand intermittent leave. That’s simply not true.

Managers may be confusing FMLA provisions that apply to the time leading up to the birth of a child with those that apply to the time after the child is born (or adopted).

It is true that you can insist ­mothers (or fathers) take all post-pregnancy leave in one full-time block. However, there is no such option while a woman is pregnant.

Women may take intermittent FMLA leave for normal prenatal care and any “incapacity” during pregnancy. That can include being approved to work part time for the duration of gestation.

Recent case: Erika LaBrousse worked for Caribbean Airmail as a compliance analyst. When she became pregnant, her doctor gave her a note that stated her pregnancy was considered “high risk” and she would need accommodations, including a reduced work schedule of no more than 25 hours per week. The same day, she submitted her application for maternity leave and FMLA leave to begin after she gave birth.

Instead of honoring her request for a reduced work schedule, the company told LaBrousse that no such positions were available. It said she could either take her FMLA leave in a block beginning immediately or lose her job.

She sued, alleging interference with her right to take intermittent FMLA leave during pregnancy.

The company argued that she wasn’t entitled to intermittent leave and that it could deny her request under the law.

The court disagreed. It said em­­ployers can force employees to take their post-birth leave in one block. However, employees are allowed to take time off intermittently before birth. Thus, LaBrousse was entitled to a part-time schedule. (LaBrousse v. Caribbean Airmail, No. 09-23529, SD FL, 2011)

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