Unpaid and Paid Leave When Adopting
Many new parents have access to paid leave through federal or state family and medical leave benefits or benefits provided to them as part of their employment contracts or packages. More than 91 percent of all the U.S. employers that are obligated or opt-in to provide paid leave for new parents indicate that it has had a positive effect on morale and turnover as well as no negative effect on employee absenteeism. Nevertheless, many adoptive parents-to-be have concerns with how they fit in.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is a labor law that obligates employers of a certain size to provide workers leave for family-related reasons and to guarantee that their jobs will still be available when they return. Such leave is unpaid by default. Employees can access benefits, such as accrued sick time. States are also allowed to add paid requirements via their own family and medical leave benefits, which cannot contradict but add to the federal FMLA. Those on family leave may also have access to other federal and state benefits, and many employers provide additional benefits as part of their employment packages. Note that family leave covers not only pregnancies but adoptions as well, and without caveats.
Note that state family and medical leave benefits vary from one state to the next. Pennsylvania does not have a state FMLA. New Jersey does and even permits up to 12 months of paid leave for parents who choose to adopt.
Being Up Front With Your Employer
After you have consulted with a PA adoption lawyer and decided to adopt, it is generally advised that you inform your employer. You don’t want them to feel blindsided down the line. How you approach this situation likely depends on the size of the company for which you work, and you should adhere to the advice and any legal representation that you have secured. With small businesses, it is generally best to let the owner know, and with corporations, you generally want to inform your direct boss as well as the HR department depending on the rules and regulations.
What to Do When a Company Denies Leave
It is generally advised that you discuss applying for family leave with a PA adoption lawyer in advance of informing your employer and officially requesting leave. The advice an attorney provides you can be integral to a successful request. In the event of a denial, your recourse depends on it. If an employer is within its rights to deny the leave, then you may have no recourse. Some companies provide an appeal process. If an appeal fails or is not an option, then a lawyer can assist you with escalating the complaint, such as going to the Department of Labor.
When Seeking Employment
The FMLA generally provides less protection to you as a new employee who has been employed for less than 12 months. You may still be entitled to leave but have less access to benefits. You should be up front with an employer. By law, your choosing to adopt cannot be a reason not to hire you. If you have the option to wait a year, it may be in your best interest to do so and then broach the topic of the adoption with your employer. However, if the process is already underway and you became unemployed or this is a dream position for you, then it behooves you to be honest with your employer concerning your adoption plan.
Here as Your Advocate
If you want to adopt a child or already have and are facing subsequent challenges, the law firm of Cofsky & Zeidman is here to assist you. Our focus is on adoptions in PA, and we have helped many clients navigate the process. You can contact us online or call us at your earliest convenience. You can reach our office in Philadelphia at (215) 563-2150.