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Posted on Monday, June 17, 2013

Understanding Workplace Pregnancy Leave for Moms and Dads

Yahoo has recently announced a new parental leave policy, in which both moms and dads will receive the same eight weeks of paid leave following the birth of a child, including through adoption.  But moms who give birth are given an additional eight weeks of paid leave following childbirth, while men and moms who adopt are not granted this additional eight weeks paid leave.

Some observers have questioned the propriety of Yahoo’s policy giving men the same eight weeks of paid leave that all women get, and also whether it is appropriate that women who give birth get twice as much leave as women who adopt.  But Yahoo’s new parental leave policy is lawful.

Despite the myriad of views on social norms, federal law requires that men and women receive the same amount of time off from work to bond with a new child.  The only instance in which the law allows a deviation between leave granted to a woman versus leave granted to a man for a new child is when the additional leave is directly linked to a woman’s recuperation from the physical effects of childbirth.  That is why it is permissible under federal law to give women who adopt less paid leave than women who give birth.
Therefore, companies should avoid using terms such as maternity and paternity leave, and instead should spell out new child leave policies using terms such as “parental leave” and “childbirth leave” to account for the distinction that federal law permits between the two.

Declan Leonard is managing partner of the Washington, DC regional business law firm Berenzweig Leonard, LLP. He can be reached at DLeonard@BerenzweigLaw.com.

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