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  • Maternity Leave Question

    I am a teacher in NJ and have some questions regarding both the federal and state's family leave acts. Currently, our teacher's contract is very vague regarding how much time we are granted for maternity leave. The union contract does not state how much time we get and how it must be taken.

    There is a rumor that the district will be cracking down on future maternity leaves.

    In the past, women have been able to work up until their due date and then use their sickdays to receive some paid time off and then NJ leave act provides 12 weeks of health insurance (I believe)

    However my due date is at the very end of September and I have heard that the district may tell me that I cannot come back in September at all ,instead I will have to start my materninty leave regardless if my doctor has said I can work.

    This, I as I understand, would severly affect my health insurance as we are only insured through the summer months because we sign our contracts that we will be back in September.

    My question is, if I am not allowed by the district to return to work in September, then does my 12 weeks start as of the last day of school in June? That means I would be dropped off the benefits program sometime in September. My husband's open enrollment is not until October.

    Secondly, How will this affect the time I can take after the baby is born? I though in NJ we were entitled to 12 weeks unpaid leave (but insurance) after the birth. Is that the law?

    Can they tell me I can't come back to work? I believe that I do not qualify for NJSDI because we can purchase disability insurance privately (we do not pay into the system via payroll deduction). I do not have private insurance because this pregnancy is completely unplanned.

    What are my legal rights? Is it different when you are a teacher working under a union contract?

  • #2
    You are probably by covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act. FMLA provides a total of 12 weeks unpaid leave with job protection, during which the employer must maintain your health insurance (although you can be required to continue to pay your portion of the premiums). NJFLA also provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member or to bond with a new baby, with your health insurance continued. It does not cover the individual employee's illness. So, in New Jersey, you could conceivably get up to 24 weeks, using the two programs.

    I thought that in New Jersey employers required to offer an SDI plan that's as good as the state SDI plan. Are you sure that you don't have some level of SDI coverage and didn't opt for a higher level coverage (the state-level benefit is fairly minimal)?
    I am not able to respond to private messages. Thanks!

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    • #3
      My recollection is that the state coverage requirement in NJ excludes public schools.

      Elle?
      I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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      • #4
        I have notes that also say public school systems are exempt from mandated state disability coverage in New Jersey. (& that few, if any, systems have voluntarily opted to participate in the state plan) Elle - verify, please
        Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

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        • #5
          You have to work with your school district and this is usually very specific in your union contact. However, there is a great deal of leeway here and deference is typically given to what is best for the students.

          What you are referring to with not going back in Sept and what they may ask you actually makes alot of sense. To start the year with a teacher after labor day and then have a change within a week or so (NJ goes back later than most states) is not in the best interests of the students.

          In fact it is not unusual to have a school board grant an extended maternity leave (without benefits most usually if it applies to an entire school year). This is far longer with job protection (in the board minutes and on the record) than statues allow.

          If you are disabled due to your pregnancy at the start of the school year, as your new contract is signed it is more than very likely you will continue the health care through the designated maternity leave period allowed.

          I would clarify this with your superintendent's office. You'll find they can negotiate this. If you had to go to your husband's insurance in Sept - don't panic, that would be a change in status and you would not only be covered, but the pregnancy would not be called preexisting. You should be fine on this, just work with them and pick a reasonable return (after the holidays say?) and make the transition good for everyone involved.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Betty3 View Post
            I have notes that also say public school systems are exempt from mandated state disability coverage in New Jersey. (& that few, if any, systems have voluntarily opted to participate in the state plan) Elle - verify, please
            Yes, School systems are exempt though they may contribute on a voluntary basis. As of right now, none have.

            There is nothing in FMLA that states the employer can force you to go on leave sooner than necessary, however, I urge you to do what is best for the students. Talk to your district about your options. We cover the summer so long as the teacher committs to returning after leave. You don't lose coverage while on FMLA (unless you refuse to pay your share of the premium) and the time over the summer can not count against you unless you ordinarily work.
            I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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