Maternity Leave Act / Pregnancy Discrimination

Tennessee maternity leave is protected under both the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act, which allows certain female employees 4 months of leave for pregnancy, childbirth, and care of a newborn, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which ensures employees with over a year of employment up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. It is illegal for Tennessee businesses of 50 or more employees to refuse any portion of these 12 weeks of maternity leave. It is also illegal for most Tennessee companies to fire employees for taking this legally protected leave or to let maternity leave to negatively affect any area of employment, including promotion, pay, or other employment considerations.

Tennessee's maternity leave as protected by the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act and FMLA also ensures that health coverage previously provided by a Tennessee employer will continue to be offered to the mother during maternity leave (though the employee must pay the premiums).

The Fine Print of Maternity Leave

Though the Family and Medical Leave Act allows exceptions for emergency cases requiring long-term medical leave, most Tennessee employees taking maternity leave must give advance notice. Under FMLA and normal conditions, you must notify your employer at least 30 days before taking maternity leave in Tennessee. This 30-day maternity leave notice is required for normal birth conditions and adoption, though emergency medical conditions can alter this time requirement. If you have have been fired or have suffered negative consequences as a result of taking emergency maternity leave and want to see if you are protected under Tennessee employment law, contact our maternity leave attorneys immediately before the statute of limitations expires on your case.

If you take maternity leave, you must do so in good faith. It is illegal for a Tennessee employee to take FMLA leave to look for another job or to falsify their medical records.

Twelve weeks of maternity leave is permitted for every year under FMLA. Your Tennessee employer may not limit the number of maternity leaves taken during your career nor allow this leave to affect employment decisions, including decisions concerning bonuses and promotions.

When returning after a period of maternity leave, your Tennessee employer is required to restore you to the same or an equivalent position. Any bonuses you qualified for prior to taking the leave (including a perfect attendance award) must continue to be available, just as if you had returned to work on Monday after a weekend. (In the same fashion, the FMLA maternity or long-term illness leave you take does not count towards hours worked.)

Recovering Financial Losses from Maternity Leave/Retaliation

Similar to other forms of employment discrimination, a Tennessee employer may not allow a woman's right to have a child and take maternity leave to impact employment decisions. Negative (and illegal) effects of maternity leave can include being terminated for requesting or taking maternity leave, passed over for a promotion, denied medical benefits, and other negative and illegal workplace measures.

It is illegal for any employer in Tennessee to discourage a person from taking the full leave protected under FMLA by suggesting that he or she may be replaced or the positioned closed. It is also illegal for a Tennessee employer to take negative actions against an employee for standing up for his or her protected rights (this constitutes retaliation, itself a matter for the courts).

If you believe your career has suffered because of pregnancy discrimination or because you have taken maternity leave in Tennessee, contact the employment lawyers at The Higgins Firm by filling out the consultation form or calling 1-800-705-2121.