Maternity Leave

Unlike most or we should say all developed countries, the U.S.A. do not have a mandatory paid maternity leave. At the same time some tech companies have already declared that they would offer paid parental leave and other family related benefits. For instance, Microsoft announced that company’s female employees who just gave birth would be entitled to 20 weeks of paid leave. Netflix amended its parental leave policy by offering up to 12 months and potentially “unlimited” unpaid vacation time. Google is also revising its policy and offering more generous parental and family leave.

It might look like a sign of a new nationwide trend. On the other hand, it could be an effect of a tightening labor market and increasing competition for certain highly skilled employees in the tech sector. Anyway, we don’t have a clear picture yet.

In 2013 Yahoo announced that it would extend parental leave for its employees. At the same time at the end of August 2015 when Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo announced that she was pregnant, she added that she would take only “limited” time out and would keep “working throughout.” Yahoo CEO’s message to her employees is clear – if you are committed to the company, you are supposed to work as much as you can and always try to exceed expectations.

It does not mean that your maternity leave is not guaranteed by law. Actually it does. Although federal government does not guarantee your paid maternity leave, it does guarantee unpaid one. According to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who work for big covered employers, are entitled to have twelve workweeks of unpaid leave in a twelve month period for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn during his or her first year.

However in the absence of mandatory paid maternity leave most female employees either cannot afford to have any unpaid leave or are reluctant to ask their boss about a possibility of taking additional two-three weeks off after having delivered a baby.

We all know where this reluctance comes from. Most employees are hired at will. It means that you can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. In this work environment everyone tries to show commitment and “exceed expectations” at all cost.

Is it supposed to be this way? No, it is not. If you are employed at will your employer can actually fire you for any reason or no reason at all. However, your employer cannot fire you in violation of law. Moreover, if your company adopts its parental leave policy that goes beyond federal and state guarantees, it must stick to it. If you signed an employment contract, the provisions of this contract would prevail unless they contradict the law. Any violation of law, corporate policy or employment contract can be successfully challenged if you have a good employment attorney. Don’t hesitate to go for a first free consultation if something goes wrong.