By Sharon Frankenberg,
Attorney at Law

The Tennessee Maternity and Adoption Care Leave Act is found at Tennessee Code Annotated Section 4-21-408.  This state law applies only to employers who employ 100 or more full-time employees

at a job site or location.  For purposes of this statute, a job “site” may encompass more than a single building.  Employees who have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 consecutive months as full-time employees may be absent from their employment for a period of no more than 4 months for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth and nursing an infant, where applicable.  This applies to both mothers and fathers.  The four months of leave is not required to be paid leave.

The employee must provide three months advance notice of his or her departure date, the length of the leave requested and his or her intent to return to work at the conclusion of the leave.   The three month advance notice requirement may be excused where the employee received less than three months advance notice of the adoption.  It may also be excused in the event of a medical emergency that necessitates the leave start earlier than expected.

After the leave has ended, the employer must reinstate the employee to his or her previous or similar position with the same status, pay, length of service credit and seniority as of the date of the leave.  The employer is not required to reinstate the employee if the employee’s position is so unique that the employer cannot, after reasonable efforts, fill that position temporarily.  Nor is the employer required to reinstate the employee if the employer finds that the employee utilized the period of leave to actively pursue other employment opportunities or to work part time or full time for another employer.

Under federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers who employ a total of 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the covered employee’s worksite.  The employee is only eligible if he or she has worked at least 12 months (does not have to be consecutive months)  and must have worked 1,250 hours for the employer during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave.

Under FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth and care of the employee’s child;  placement of a child for adoption or foster care with an employee;  care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition;  or treatment of the employee’s own serious health condition.  Immediate family members are spouses, children and parents of the employee.  The employee must be allowed to return to his or her same or equivalent job after the leave.  The employee should expect to be required to provide medical certification of the health condition, give status reports and provide certification that he or she is fit to return to work.  FMLA also requires that the employee notify the employer of his or her intent to take leave as early as is practicable, with three days being a good rule of thumb.

If you believe your employer has improperly denied you family medical leave coverage, you should contact an attorney to get advice regarding your specific circumstances and to ensure that your rights to compensation are protected.