Florida (FL) Maternity Leave Law

I thought I would check in to shed a little light on Florida maternity leave laws. I was just over on the Florida Department of Labor web site and really learned a lot!

If you are a private sector employee, Florida has no laws that guarantee job protection or benefits for new parents. So if you are a private sector employee your best bet is probably to use the two federal laws that come into play for pregnant women and new parents. They are the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and also by the Family Medical Leave Act.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, or deny a woman a promotion because she’s pregnant. Basically, she must be treated just like anyone else in the company!  This goes for sick leave and disability too. If a company offers these things to other employees, then it also must offer them for pregnancy-related issues.

The Family Medical Leave Act allows private or public sector employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to, among other things, take care of a newborn baby or newly adopted child. One thing though—if you plan to take advantage of this act you have to work for an employer with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.

It’s really important that you understand that this act doesn’t guarantee your job will be held. A provision designed to ease economic hardship for businesses allows companies to let you go during your leave if you are in the top 10 percent of highest paid employees. Before you get too worried, know that your company has to notify you before you go on leave that you are one of these employees. The company also has to give you the option of returning to work before your leave is up.

If you are a public sector employee in Florida you have another option. Florida state employees are entitled to a maximum of six months of unpaid parental or family leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or to care for one’s own or a spouse’s pregnancy disability or recovery from childbirth.

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184 Thoughts on “Florida (FL) Maternity Leave Law”

Sadie

May 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

My employer for the past 9 years (company has over 400 people) allows 6 weeks unpaid maternity leave, which includes covering our health insurance benefits. They have no problem with me taking an extra 6 weeks, but say that I will have to pay the insurance premium for those extra 6 weeks. Does the FMLA cover 12 weeks of unpaid leave BUT require the agency to cover the benefits? That was how I interpreted it, but my agency is telling me differently.

Amelia

May 27, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Hi Sadie! No, your agency is correct. The FMLA requires that an employee be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave, and return to her job afterwards. The FMLA is unpaid, although your employer is generously offering to pay you for 6 weeks.

Under FMLA the employer must continue benefits, including group health insurance, on the same basis as when the employee was working. This means if you were paying $200 each payperiod for group health insurance while working (usually as a payroll deduction) you must pay the same amount while on FMLA. If you did not pay this amount, the employer could legally cancel your group health insurance. (If the employer pays 100% of the health insurance premium while you are working, they must continue to do so while you are on FMLA.) HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Amelia

Mary1234

July 3, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Hi! I’m 28 weeks pregnant. My expected delivery date is August 20. I work for a company of more than 1500 employees, and I have worked for them more than 1250 hours. However, on my expected delivery date I will be with the company for 11 months. So, human resources told me that I have to quit because I am not elegible for maternity leave. Is that legal? Thank you

Amelia

July 3, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hi Mary! The information you got from HR is not entirely correct. It is true that to qualify for FMLA an employee must have worked for the employer 12 months AND 1,250 hours in the past 12 months. You will only meet one of those requirements, so you are not entitled to any maternity leave or unpaid leave under FMLA. When you go on leave for childbirth, the employer can treat you like any other employee with an attendance problem. Usually that means after you use all your sick or vacation time and miss another week or two of work, you will be fired.

The inaccurate portion of this statement is that you have to quit. You are under no obligation to quit, and you should probably let the employer fire you. If you quit, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits, even after your doctor releases you to return to work. Usually if you are fired for absences, and you were physically unable to work, you do qualify for unemployment benefits once your doctor releases you to return to work. (Usually 4 to 6 weeks after a normal deliver, longer if you have a c-section.)

Many employees are terrified that being fired will ruin their career. This is not true. The average employee gets fired at least once in his life. In addition, this is the very best reason for being fired. When you are interviewing for another job, any reasonable person will understand that you had to take time off for childbirth but were not yet entitled to FMLA.

So yes, the employer can fire you when you have to take time off for the pregnancy or childbirth, if that time off exceeds their usual attendance standards. However, there is no law that you have to quit, and we do not recommend that you do. The HR department is telling you to quit because they save money if fewer employees collect unemployment. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Mary

July 6, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thank you very much Amelia for your fast response. So, I should go on for childbirth and wait for them to fire me. Does it matter that I don’t have a year with the company to receive unemployment? Sorry for asking so many questions, but I don’t have any idea of how those things work. Thanks again.

Amelia

July 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Hi Mary! You are very welcome.

Yes, you should continue to work until your baby is born, or until your doctor says that you need to take time off. Then write a letter or email to your employer, letting them know that you are on pregnancy/childbirth disability and when you expect to return. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter or email. This will not prevent the employer from firing you, but it will give you proof to show that you did not quit. Also get a note from your doctor.

Normally someone who has worked full-time for the past 9 months qualifies for unemployment benefits once her doctor releases her to return to work, if she has been fired. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

lilo

July 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I am employee by the same company over 2 yrs. There are over 300 full time employees. I am 6 months pregnant and I am having complications consequently, my doctor is requiring that I visit every 2 wks. My employer has been giving me a hard time since I don’t have PTO or vacation time to cover the absences.

I was told that I would have to take FMLA which is only 12wks and would not leave me enough time to take care of my baby.

Can they force me to take FMLA or be terminated?

Amelia

July 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Hi lilo! Yes, the employer can force you to take FMLA or be terminated. In fact, even if you had PTO or vacation time, the employer could force you to use FMLA for prenatal appointments if they wanted to. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, total, for all pregnancy and childbirth related absences, including baby bonding. A few states provide longer leave, but Florida does not.

This is a dilemma that most working women face. After childbirth, you will probably be physically unable to work for 4 to 6 weeks (longer if you have a c-section.) Theoretically, you could return to work at that point, although FMLA allows you to use any remaining FMLA for baby bonding.

If you refuse to use FMLA for your prenatal appointments, the employer can fire you for excessive absences. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Tami

August 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

when i go out for maternity leave i will lose all pay and health insurance coverage-is this legal for a company with only 10 employees? I know i am not eligible for FMLA but I need my insurance! I was given the option of paying 500.00 per mos to keep it while im out but with losing pay as well i cannot afford that. When i take my maternity leave (6wks is all that is allowed) i am still an employee so how can they take away my health insurance???

Amelia

August 4, 2010 at 10:11 am

Hi Tami! Yes, this is legal. The employer is offering you the opportunity to extend your group health insurance coverage under the Florida state mini-COBRA law. However, to do so you must pay the entire monthly premium. (Normally, your employer pays a portion of the monthly premium. So if you pay $300 per month, your employer is paying $200 per month when you are working.) Even if you were on FMLA (which is unpaid) you would have to continue paying your portion of the health insurance premium. This situation is faced by pregnant employees of small companies in most states. (Also be aware that if you do not take the mini-COBRA, it may be a few months after you return to work before you have insurance coverage.) HTH, and thaks for rading the blogs!~Amelia

Liliana

August 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I work within the Human Resources Department. One of our employees is a young lady that is currently pregnant. She is unfortunately not performing as required. What type of reprecussions would there be if we terminate her?

Amelia

August 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Hi Liliana! You can expect the same performance from a pregnant employee that you would expect of any other employee with the same job. A pregnant employee does not have a disability and there is no law that requires you to modify your performance standards for her. Of course, if you took negative action against an employee because she was pregnant, that would be illegal discrimination under federal law.

If you have 50 or more workers, the employee may be entitled to intermittent unpaid time off under FMLA if pregnancy complications are interfering with her work performance. However, total FMLA is limited to 12 weeks for all reasons including pregnancy complications, prenatal appointments, childbirth and baby bonding.

In order to avoid discrimination, you should use objective standards for performance and document each time she does not meet your standards. You should also go through the complete disciplinary process including counseling the employee, a verbal warning, and 2-3 written warnings, before termination. For example, if the employee is expected to produced 10 widgets per day, and she only produces 8 widgets per day, you can issue a verbal warning one week, followed by a written warning the next week, etc.

Be sure to follow your normal disciplinary procedures. Any attempt to accelerate the process will be seen as pregnancy discrimination. This is a complex issue, so feel free to post any additional questions you might have. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Kim Raymond

August 17, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Hi, we are a small, private company (5 employees). I have one employee that is 2 weeks into her maternity leave and another leaving on hers in two weeks. The employees were told that they would get 4 weeks, half pay, maternity leave. The girl that is out now mailed us a letter after she picked up her 2nd weeks pay check that she is quitting and would like us to mail her the last two weeks pay for maternity leave. Besides this being very inconvenient at this time are we required to send that to her? I know we are not required to offer maternity leave with or without pay, but am not sure as to this exact situation. Her letter states that she is terminating her employment as of this date. I have been researching Florida Labor laws, but nothing covering this type of situation.

Thank you for any info,
Kim

Amelia

August 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Hi Kim! In Florida as in other states, an employee can be required to repay any wages for maternity leave if she does not return to the job. In this case, you are absolutely justified in not paying this employee the remaining two weeks of maternity benefits. You offer maternity benefits only to current employees, and this person is not a current employee.

When an employee works, they are entitled to wages earned. However, these are not wages earned. They are a benefit that the employer is voluntarily providing, and as the employer you set the rules regarding these payments. It would be very foolish of you to pay this employee.

You are being more than fair as a small employer by providing paid maternity leave to employees. This worker is treating you in a very shabby manner. There is no reason to let her get away with this. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

P.S. We have a special site set up to answer questions from employers like you at http://www.humanresourceblog.com. You may find it more convenient to post questions there.

Kim Raymond

August 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Thank you for your quick reply. I will check out your link.
Kim

Amelia

August 18, 2010 at 7:29 am

Hi again Kim! You are very welcome!~ Amelia

Mary

October 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Hi Amelia! It is Mary again, I already had my baby, but the day before my C-section I went to work as normally and at the end of the day my supervisor wanted me to sign a termination letter. I refused to sign it. I asked her why I have to sign that letter if she a month ago told me that they will save the job for me. She said that in order to keep the job I have to sign. After that, a lady from human resources called me and asked me to sign and again I refused. Is all that legal? What can I do?

Amelia

October 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Hi Mary! Congrats on the new baby!! The “termination letter” may have actually stated that you were voluntarily quitting your job. The employer probably wanted you to sign it, so they could avoid paying unemployment benefits if they do not put you back to work. If the employer intended to hold your job open for you, or return you to work after your doctor releases you, no termination letter would be necessary.

We have a feeling that your employer is being less than honest with you. It seems that they wanted you to quit. We suspect that if you had done so, they would not have hired you back after your maternity leave, and you would not qualify for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, many employers have no problem lying to workers if it will save them money on unemployment. If the employer truly intended to put you back to work after the baby was born, they would have no problem including that in the termination letter. Or, they could have skipped the termination letter altogether.

It is true that they probably won’t put you back to work if you refuse to sign the termination letter stating that you quit. It is also true that they probably never intended to put you back to work anyway. Let the employer know now, in writing, when you think you will be able to return to work. Keep a copy of the letter. If they do not put you back to work after your doctor releases you, file for unemployment benefits. And enjoy your time with the new baby! HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Mary

October 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Thank you very much Amelia!!!

Amelia

October 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Hi again Mary! You are very welcome. Feel free to post any more questions you might have. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Jennifer

October 29, 2010 at 2:17 am

We live in Florida and my husband’s supervisor told him that he is able to take 30 days off after I had the baby, Well that time has come and gone and he is due to go back to work on Monday. He was an overhead emploee making x amount of dollars and he thinks that they are going to give him an non-overhead position at a lower rate. Are they able to do that?

Amelia

October 29, 2010 at 8:52 am

Hi Jennifer! Yes, unfortunately they may be able to do that, if the employer has fewer than 50 employees.

Florida has no family leave law at the state level. An employer with 50 or more employees within 75 miles is covered by the federal FMLA, the Family and Medical Leave Act. That law permits an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for several reasons, including for a parent of either sex to care for a newborn child. If your husband was covered by the FMLA, he would be entitled to 12 weeks of leave and he must be returned to his job with the same wages, hours and working conditions when that leave ends.

Because your husband was granted only 30 days of leave, we suspect that he is not covered by the FMLA. In that case, the employer was not legally required to give him any time off for parental leave. If a company has the policy of giving a new mother 30 days off to care for the baby, they must also extend that benefit to new fathers. Otherwise, they are guilty of illegal discrimination. However, there is no state law that the employee must be returned to the same job after parental leave. Hindsight is 20/20, but this might have been a good question for your husband to ask before takinng leave.

If the company has a policy of returning a new mother to her job after leave, then they must do the same with a new father. If this is the case, your husband should file a discrimination complaint with the Florida Comission on Human Relations. If he believes he was entitled to FMLA, then he should file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov. It is illegal for an employer to take negative action against an employee who files a complaint in good faith, even if the complaint is later found not to be valid. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Need Info

December 1, 2010 at 3:45 am

I live in Florida and have worked for this company for almost 10 years. The owner has 5 stores with more than 10 people in each and they are within 75 miles from each other. I am currently approaching my 9th month of pregnancy and will be taking leave soon. First, the owner told me as long as I have a strong managment team I will be able to take my leave with no problems. Then a couple of weeks later he told me he cannot wait the 12 weeks and will replace me as soon as I take leave and when I come back I would be put in a lower position with lower pay. (That doesnt make me want to come back.) Just until he can work me back into my current position, which can take any where from months to years. So my question is what can I do? Can I file for unemployment since I know I’m not going to receive my 12 weeks under FMLA ? Or should I just wait it out. Only thing I know to do is to find another job that will supplement my income after the baby.

Amelia

December 1, 2010 at 7:46 am

Hi Need Info! Okay, let’s take a deep breath here.

If the employer has 50 employees within 75 miles of your work location, you are covered by the federal FMLA. That law entitles you to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for pregnancy, childbirth and to care for your newborn baby. Under that law, when you are ready to return to work, you must be returned to the same job with the same working conditions, benefits and salary.

The employer is 100% free to hire someone to fill in for you while you are on FMLA. However, when you are ready to return (with your doctor’s permission) you must be reinstated to your job. In certain cases it may be impossible to return an employee to the same job. For example, the store where you worked might relocate while you are on FMLA. In that case, you are entitled to another job with the same working conditions, benefits and pay — in other words, being manager of a different store.

If you cannot return to work after 12 weeks of FMLA, the employer can fire you or offer you a different job. However, if you are able to return within 12 weeks or less, you are entitled to job restoration under federal law.

You should absolutely NOT quit. If you do so, you are not eligible for unemployment or for job restoration because you quit. You would also have no way to prove that the employer did not intend to return you to your job, because you quit before that happened.

You need to have a tactful conversation with the owner about FMLA. Your attitude in approaching this should be that you are helping your employer navigate a difficult process. He may not have had many managers on maternity leave before, so you are getting the information for him. Print out this U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet on FMLA at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.htm. Show it to your employer, especially the portion on job restoration. Tactfully explain that under FMLA, you must be returned to your job. You just want him to know, to avoid any future problems or misunderstandings when you are ready to return to work. Also let him know now, in writing, when you expect to go on FMLA for childbirth and when you expect to return to your current job. Keep a copy. (Obviously, if you go into labor sooner that will change, but at least you have given notice as far as possible.)

The ideal solution here would be for the owner to temporarily promote an assistant manager to “acting manager” while you are on FMLA for 12 weeks. This person should understand that they will gain valuable experience that will help them to move ahead in the company. However, they should also understand that legally, when you return from FMLA, you will be returned to your job as manager.

The employer should give you FMLA papers to complete when you go on leave. (If not, check back in with us and we will provide a link.) Stay in touch with the employer every week or two by phone, or as he requests. Let him know in writing a week or so before you are ready to return to work.

As long as you do not exceed 12 weeks of FMLA, you are legally entitled to job restoration.

If the employer does not restore you to your job when you are ready to return, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor at http://www.dol.gov, and file for unemployment benefits. The DOL will investigate and if they find your rights under FMLA have been violated, they will sue the employer for you. In most cases, as soon as the DOL becomes involved, the employee is returned to her job. Hopefully it won’t go that far, because the employer will get more information on FMLA in advance. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Christi

January 29, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Hi, I live in Florida and have been working at my job for around 8-9 months. I am 35 weeks pregnant and went to my H.R. department to fill out my papers for my maternity leave. I was told first that i get 3 months and now I am being told because of the time I have been there, I only get 6 weeks. Is this true and if so is there any other leave or anything I can do or take to make this longer, because this is my first child and i know 6 weeks is not going to be enough time to leave her and go back to work. Thank you

Amelia

January 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

Hi Christi! Actually, the employer is being very generous in giving you any time at all. Under the federal FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act, an employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for pregnancy and childbirth. However, that law applies only to employees who have been with the company for at least 12 months. (This is probably what HR was thinking of when they said you had 3 months of leave.)
Because you are not entitled to FMLA, and Florida does not have a family leave law, there is actually no law that the employer must give you any time at all. They could fire you for being absent more than a week or two.
It is understandable that you may not want to return to work when your child is so young. However, you need to consider the consequences. Your doctor will probably release you to return to work six weeks after a normal delivery. If you choose not to return to work when you are physically able to do so, then you are basically quitting your job. If the employer has paid a portion of your health insurance or other benefits while you were on maternity leave, you may be required to repay them, if you do not return to work when you are physically able to do so. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Judi

February 12, 2011 at 9:18 am

Hi! Found your blog and I’m kinda of at a loss as to what to do here.

When I was originally hired a year ago I worked a 9 – 5 or 9 -8 shift for my position. When we fired a receptionist I was asked to “temporarily” cover the night shift and my schedule has been changed from 1 – 10 p.m.

I’m currently 12 weeks pregnant. Not only am I not really looking forward to being 9 months pregnant and working until 10, but no one seems to want to accommodate my schedule once the baby comes. It’s being “highly suggested” that I take 6 weeks maternity leave instead of the full 12, and that I come back to working a night schedule after my maternity leave since its “not in the budget” to hire a new receptionist.

This wasn’t my original position I was hired for, and I feel since I’ve been flexible in working through a what was supposed to be a temporary situation, that my employers would work with me as well.

The receptionist position is supplemented by another person who refuses to work the evening shift because she “can’t.” I suppose this question is multi fold. I’m assuming if I quit after my maternity leave I’ll have to supplement my own insurance and pay my premiums in full until I find another job and get on their insurance. But should I also assume my employer has no obligation to work with my schedule or provide me with the hours of my original position if I go on leave working this position?

Amelia

February 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hi Judi! Unfortunately, the answer to all your questions is “yes.” There is no Florida or federal law that requires the employer to accommodate your schedule based on pregnancy, or after you return from maternity leave.

It is unfortunate that you agreed to work the evening shift. If you had quit rather than accept that position, you would have qualified for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, once you work the new schedule one day, you have accepted it and do not qualify for unemployment benefits if you quit after that.

We agree that it was unethical for the employer to represent this as a temporary change when in fact it was permanent. However in Florida, the employer has the right to change work hours and working conditions at any point. Unless you have something in writing that says this change was temporary, you really have no recourse. Nevertheless, you can and should sit down with the employer and have a calm, private, tactful conversation about this. Say that you never intended to work the evening shift, and respectfully ask to be put back on your original shift. Leave your pregnancy out of this. It is illegal discrimination for an employer to make work decisions based on your pregnancy, or because you have a new baby.

If the employer has 50 workers within 75 miles of your location, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for childbirth and baby bonding under the federal FMLA. The employer cannot deprive you of this right. Your health insurance must be continued on the same basis as before, during this period. When you return, you must be given the shift you were working before you went on maternity leave — meaning 1 pm to 10 pm. If you do not return, you must repay the employer’s part of the premiums. If you are covered by FMLA, our recommendation would be that you take 12 weeks of maternity leave and then return for 2 to 4 weeks so you don’t have to repay those premiums.

If you quit due to working hours or because you are a new parent, you will not qualify for unemployment. In most states, if you are fired because you have intermittent child care problems or excessive absences due to minor illnesses, you qualify for unemployment benefits. Obviously, the long-term solution is to discuss this with your employer, and if they are not willing to change your shift, look for another job. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Lexie

March 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm

I have a question, not specifically about labor law, but about a breastfeeding mother’s rights during jury duty. I have been called for jury duty next month and I’m a nursing mom. (I am not eligible to be excused as a caretaker of an infant because I work full-time). I recently read a local newspaper article that reported on the fact that the only facilities available to pump at my county’s courthouse are the bathrooms that, according to the report, are very unclean. What rights do I have here? I was under the impression that new healthcare laws required that facilities, other than a bathroom, be provided for pumping. Is this correct? And if so, does this only apply to employees at a workplace? If I call and ask for other accommodations, I’d like to be armed with the correct facts. Thank you for your help! -Lexie

Amelia

March 15, 2011 at 8:52 am

Hi Lexie! Yes, the law you cite is a federal law that applies only to employers. In fact, it is part of the federal Helathcare Reform law, which some people are working to repeal. That law requires that an employer make reasonable accommodations for a breastfeeding employee during the infant’s first year of life, unless it is an undue hardship. For example, renovating a old, crowded courthouse to include a room for breastfeeding mothers would most likely be an undue hardship. And of course, the court is not your employer.

Also be aware that federal laws do not apply to state courts, and vice versa. You have not said whether you are summoned for jury duty in a state or federal court.

Your best bet is to appeal to the judge’s sense of decency rather than demand your rights. Judges have wide latitude in excusing people from jury duty. Explain to the judge that this is an undue hardship for you and your child, because there is no private, lockable, sanitary space at the courthouse to use a pump, as there is at work. Respectfully ask that you either be excused from jury duty, or allowed to bring your infant and breastfeed her in court as necessary. (Florida does have a law that allows a mother to breastfeed her infant in any public or private location.) Our guess is that the judge will take pity on you and excuse you from duty, rather than have an infant in his courtroom. However, there is no Florida or federal law that we can find, that would require the judge to make this ruling. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia

Amelia

June 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

SkyeLight, congrats on your pregnancy! It’s not entirely clear from your question if you are an employee working on an annual contract, or an independent contractor…and the answer to that question changes everything.

It sounds like you may be an independent contractor. As a contractor (also called a contract worker or even a contract employee), you would not be an employee and therefore are not covered by FMLA. If your employer wants to allow you 12 or more weeks of unpaid leave, they can. However, they would also be within their legal rights to terminate you when you must take several weeks off.

Because nursing instructors are in high demand, there is a good chance the employer will retain you, or offer you a new contract when you are ready to return to work. However, they are not under any legal obligation to do so in Florida. (A major purpose of converting instructors to independent contractors is to ensure that they are not covered by various employment laws.)

As an independent contractor, you would not entitled to unemployment benefits at all, ever. This is true regardless of the circumstances. The school could shut down tomorrow, all the employees could be eligible for unemployment and you would not be, because you are not an employee. The same is true of a contract employee, after the contract expires.

On the other hand, it may be that you are genuinely an employee of the school, with an employee handbook, who receives a W-4 rather than a 1099 at the end of the year. If that is the case, and your employer has 50+ employees, you are likely entitled to FMLA. That may be moot, since the employer would be required to grant you unpaid leave but would also have the unilateral option not to offer you a new contract for the next year.

To take that answer one step further, in the U.S. “unpaid maternity leave” means an employee is never entitled to unemployment compensation while on maternity leave. In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, an employee has to be ready, willing and able to work (but no work is available for her.) Maternity leave is the opposite situation, where there is work available (her old job) but the employee is either not available (because she is caring for a baby) or not physically able to work (due to temporary disability after childbirth.) Many European countries provide paid maternity leave by paying unemployment benefits, but the U.S. does not.

But again, none of that applies to you if you are an independent contractor.

We are sure your dean is a great person and values all her instructors. However, without sounding cynical, asking your employer for career advice is a bit like asking the lawyer who is suing you for advice on how to win the case. Employers and employees (or contract workers) have competing priorities and it would be naive to rely on the opposition for advice.

If you’d like to post another question clarifying whether you are an employee on an annual contract or an independent contractor, we can supply more specific into.

SkyeLight

June 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Hi!

I am a nursing instructor at a school here in Florida. My position started off part-time (although I usually worked full-time hours) and 2 months ago the company switched all of the part-time instructors (all but one instructor) to “contract” positions (to avoid having to pay any healthcare benefits).

I am now 5 months pregnant and have already submitted my vacation time for maternity leave (which is unpaid of course). I spoke with the campus dean when our positions were first being changed to “contract” and told her that I was pregnant and that I was concerned if I needed to look for a new job since the contract says that an employee can be terminated if they are unable to perform their duties or absent for more than 30 days in a row. The campus dean said that I have nothing to worry about because that is why they have per diem instructors that can take my place in the cases like maternity leave.

1) As a “contract” employee am I able to apply for FMLA?
2) As a “contract” employee am I able to apply for and collect unemployment during my unpaid maternity leave here in Florida?

Thank you!

Latrice

July 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I was injured earlier this year while pregnant on the job. I was told that I had to use my FMLA to cover my job while out on workman compensation. I use 2 months of my FMLA. I no longer have 12 weeks for maternity leave. Can they do that? I was under the impression that workman compensation runs under its own thing.

July 4, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi Latrice,

Unfortunately, yes, in FL they can do that. Workers’ comp provides employees with medical care when they are injured at work. It also provides the employee with compensation when he or she is unable to work due to an injury. However, the employer can require that the employee use FMLA while unable to work on workers’ comp.

FMLA provides a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave for all reasons combined in a 12-month period. Since you have used about 8 weeks of FMLA, you will have only 4 weeks left for any other reason, including childbirth and baby bonding. If you cannot return to work in 4 weeks, you will likely be terminated.

Some states provide pregnant women with additional leave over and above the 12 weeks of FMLA, but Florida is not one of them. Sorry, wish we could be more helpful.

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