There’s a law in the U.S. that says adoptive parents have the right to take time off from work without retaliation from their employer, and parents can take leave from work in order to complete the adoption process and bond with their new family. The law that requires employers to allow adoptive parents leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), and it applies to adoptions just like it applies to new births. The law requires employers to allow adopting parents time away from work both before and after the adoption process as necessary to complete the adoption and spend time together as a family.
What is the FMLA?
FMLA stands for Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. The FMLA is a federal law that applies throughout the United States. The purpose of the FMLA is to give employees time away from work when they need it in order to tend to family changes and major life events. Employers can’t retaliate against employees in any way for taking qualified leave under the FMLA. The United States Department of Labor oversees implementation of the FMLA.
Does adoption qualify for FMLA leave?
Yes, adoptions qualify for FMLA leave. If you’re adopting, you qualify for the same protections that all new parents receive under the law. When you adopt a child, you may exercise your right to take leave under the FMLA.
What does the FMLA mean for an adoption?
When you adopt, you may take up to 12 weeks of leave related to the adoption. You may take time off after your child is in your home in order to bond and get to know each other. For adoptions, you can even take time off before the adoption is complete in order to attend court hearings and other related matters.
Adding to your family through adoption provides for many of the same FMLA benefits that parents receive when they add a biological child to their family. However, in an adoption, you have the added benefit of being able to take time off from work in order to do all of the things that happen during the adoption process. Even traveling to your child’s home country to complete paperwork and take your child to their new home can qualify for leave under the FMLA.
Does the FMLA apply to my employer?
When you adopt a child, the FMLA applies to your case just like it would apply to any other qualifying life circumstance. That means, in order to have the protections of the FMLA as an adoptive parent, your employer must be subject to the FMLA. The FMLA applies to any public employer like a government agency. It also applies to businesses or organizations with 50 or more employees. To qualify for adoption leave under the FMLA, you must work with your employer for 12 months or longer before you take adoption leave. If your employer meets these criteria and you’re pursuing an adoption, you likely qualify for FMLA leave.
Is adoption leave under the FMLA paid or unpaid?
Adoption leave under the FMLA is unpaid. Your employer doesn’t have to compensate you for your time off. You can use paid time off that you’ve accrued, and you can use paid sick days. Like all types of FMLA leave, your adoptive leave is unpaid.
Even though the FMLA doesn’t require your employer to pay you for adoptive leave, your employer may have a different program or policy that provides for compensation or additional help. You should check with your employer in order to learn what their benefits are under the FMLA and in addition to the FMLA. Your employer must comply with the minimum requirements of the FMLA, but they can go above and beyond in order to provide additional benefits.
How much time off can I take for an adoption under the FMLA?
The FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks off to complete your adoption. If you and your spouse have the same employer, you may take up to 12 weeks off combined. You may split up the 12 weeks between you and your spouse however you like. You may take the 12 weeks off all at once, or you may take the time off intermittently. In adoption cases, it’s often helpful to take time off for things like court hearings, your home study and travel to meet your child. When you return to work, you may consider returning to work on a part-time schedule. You may be able to continue in your current role part-time, or your employer may assign you to a different role that’s more conducive to part-time work.
If you want to take time off under the FMLA, it’s important to notify your employer as soon as you can. There may be forms to fill out in order to verify your time away from work. In addition, if you’re one of the highest-compensated employees at your company, your employer may decline to approve the leave if they can show how your absence would result in serious losses to the company.
Is there a separate law in North Carolina for FMLA?
No, there is no law in North Carolina that’s similar to the FMLA. Employers in North Carolina must fully comply with the FMLA, but there are no additional state laws that they need to comply with that are similar to the Family Medical Leave Act. The FMLA applies in North Carolina to all covered employers. However, there are no additional requirements that are unique to North Carolina law that apply to adoption leave.
What happens if my employer violates my rights under the FMLA?
If your employer violates your rights under the FMLA, they are in violation of the law. You may bring a claim for damages against the employer. The U.S. Secretary of Labor may also bring an enforcement action on your behalf. You have a limited amount of time to exert your rights under the FMLA if you believe that your employer is in violation of the law.
The Family Medical Leave Act and adoptions
The Family Medical Leave Act is an important law that applies to adoption cases. Under the FMLA you may take time away from work both before and after the adoption. You may take time to do the things associated with the adoption like attend court hearings. You may also use FMLA leave to spend time with your family after the adoptive placement. If you’re adopting, it’s important to check to see whether the FMLA applies to you based on the size of your employer and your employment history. If you qualify, the FMLA can give you the flexibility that you need to complete the adoption and begin your journey with your new family.