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Varying Maternity Leave Policies, cont.

On Monday, it was discussed that it is typically acceptable to offer different maternity leave benefits for employees at separate employer locations (such as a corporate office versus store locations). Further, it was noted that it is generally acceptable to have varying policies amongst employees, so far as the policies are applied within the parameters of the law (i.e., not discriminatory).

If as an employer you are going to structure a different policy for different employees, it makes sense to do so based upon a clear distinction such as full/part time status, exempt/nonexempt, job group or even department.  Also, when approached by an employee who is inquiring about maternity leave, it is generally best to have the employee set up a meeting with your company’s HR Director or personnel to discuss privately all options and to make sure there is clear understanding of the pending leave.  If there is language in the employee policy handbook related to the matter, the employee should of course be directed to it.

Employers should additionally be open to negotiations in this respect.  Can the employee work from home for a period of time? Is she willing to train a new employee before leaving? There are some aspects of maternity leave that can be negotiated just the same as any other benefits. However in taking any steps, care should be taken to make sure the employee’s privacy is respected. When preparing for a pending maternity leave an employee should not become the topic of office gossip.

As always, employers must adopt policies not only in compliance with federal law (such as the FMLA, if applicable), but also state law.  Maternity leave is a complicated concern for every employer and those who fail to handle it properly can be subject to unwanted litigation and legal expense.  If you are an employer, and unsure how to address maternity leave or other pregnancy-related issues at your business, please feel free to contact the employment law attorneys at McBrayer.

Luke Wingfield

Luke A. Wingfield is an associate with McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Mr. Wingfield concentrates his practice in employment law, insurance defense, litigation and administrative law. He is located in the firm’s Lexington office and can be reached at lwingfield@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law and does not constitute legal advice.

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