In North Carolina, over half of all working people (61%) don’t work enough to qualify for the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This article addresses Parental Leave in North Carolina and what you may or may not be entitled to under both federal and state law.
FMLA is a federal law put into place to protect jobs for those who need extended leave to provide care for a sick family member or to spend time bonding with a new child. The Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents. However, FMLA only applies to companies and agencies employing more than 50 people or those working for public and private schools.
Until recently, those who worked for smaller companies not bound by FMLA protection were often left without a job when taking time off to spend with a new baby or an adopted child. But the North Carolina Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, enacted in January 2022 significantly changed the workplace for North Carolinians. The Act grants employees 12 weeks of paid leave for significant life events, such as a new parent biologically or by adoption.
For every 30 hours worked, it will entitle them to 1 hour of paid time off (PTO), and they can receive up to 100% of the weekly statewide average wage. The Act also includes provisions for stalking or domestic violence victims. Anyone who submits an application and meets the monetary requirement criteria is eligible.
How FMLA and the North Carolina Paid Family Leave Insurance Act Work Together
The North Carolina Paid Family Leave Insurance program acts in conjunction with FMLA. Everyone who works for a qualifying employer is eligible for FMLA leave. However, North Carolina residents enjoy benefits beyond the leave provided under FMLA. With FMLA, under a covered employer, maternity and paternity leave can provide up to 12 unpaid weeks of leave. Your employee handbook can tell you how long you can be away from work and maintain your benefits.
FMLA offers two primary benefits:
- Job-protected family and medical leave
- Continued coverage of group health insurance
- An employee must work 1,250 hours within the last 12-month period
- Worked a combined total of 12 months for the employer
- Be employed by a company that has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius
Many part-time employees are ineligible for FMLA leave because they do not meet the 1,250 hours requirement. However, the Act in North Carolina allows part-time employees to earn PTO, at an equal rate as those working full-time.
The North Carolina Paid Family Leave Insurance Act benefits include:
- Up to 12 weeks of paid time off (PTO) for significant life events.
- Domestic Violence Leave—NC employers are prohibited from firing, demoting, disciplining or refusing to
promote employees who must take a reasonable amount of leave from work to obtain an order of protection
- Small Necessities—Another provision of the Act provides a minimum of four hours of unpaid leave for
parents to deal with school activities and issues.
Residents traveling across state lines to work are, however, subject to the laws of the neighboring states, and they sometimes have a more significant number of legal rights.
Maternity Leave Under the FMLA
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects maternity leave if you work for a company with 50 or more employees.
In most cases, you can take 12 weeks off work for maternity without pay if you have:
- Logged 1,250 hours of work for the employer during the past year
- Worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 months
The state of North Carolina also requires short-term disability policies to cover pregnancy. In most cases, employees receive 50 percent of their salaries after 60 days.
Paternity Leave Under the FMLA
The FMLA governs paternity leave in North Carolina. If you’re an eligible father working for a covered employer (see above), you qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid job protection and health insurance continuation.
Studies have shown that it is beneficial for father’s to have the same opportunity to bond with a new child. FMLA also provides fathers with protected leave to care for a wife with pregnancy-related disabilities, premature infants, or other special needs that may arise.
FMLA and Same-Sex Marriages
Since all 50 states recognize same-sex marriage, employees covered by FMLA in North Carolina may take unpaid leave to bond with a new “son” or “daughter.” FMLA considers a child a “son or daughter” if he or she is a biological child, legally adopted, a foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a person standing “in loco parentis.”.
“In loco parentis” refers to a person acting in the parent’s place. According to the Department of Labor, an LGBTQ+ parent who raises a child without a legal or biological relationship with the child is part of the category.
Parents in a same-sex relationship who do not have a biological or legal relationship with the child are entitled to FMLA leave to care for the child if they assume the responsibility of caring for the child.
We Can Provide Guidance on Parental Leave in North Carolina
If your employer is refusing to honor FMLA requirements or the North Carolina Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, you need to speak with a North Carolina employment law attorney to learn more about your rights. An experienced employment attorney near you can help you with maternal and paternal leave issues.
For small businesses and their employees in North Carolina, understanding the nuances of FMLA and the NC Paid Family Leave Insurance Act as they apply to the workplace can be challenging.
Contact Harman Law if you have questions about parental leave in North Carolina or to ensure that your internal leave policies comply with the FMLA to safeguard your workers’ rights and avoid future litigation.