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Three Things Employers Need to Know About Parental Leave Policies to Avoid Legal Liability

  • By: Sarah Mugmon
    Published: March 21, 2022
Three Things Employers Need to Know About Parental Leave Policies to Avoid Legal Liability

To reduce potential lawsuits and EEOC charges, here are three things employers can address in their parental leave policies: (1) they should be inclusive; (2) they should be gender neutral, and (3) they can address any medical leave, such as for child birth, through a short-term disability policy. By making these three changes to a parental leave policy, a company can ensure that their policy is compliant with federal, state, and other applicable laws. Now, let’s take a closer look at these three points.

  • Inclusivity.  Parental leave policies were often referred to as “maternity leave,” but this was a misnomer, as it implies only mothers who give birth to a child are entitled to parental leave.  Employees, however, may become parents through adopting, fostering, or surrogacy. It is important that parental leave policies apply equally, regardless of the method by which an employee is a parent.

  • Gender neutrality.  Employees can become parents regardless of gender, and parental leave policies should refrain from using gendered terms. Gender neutrality also ensures that same-sex couples who are parents are included, as well.

  • Short-term disability.  Employers that offer short-term disability benefits to employees may want to provide paid parental leave to all employees. In these instances, all employees should be eligible for parental leave if the conditions under its policy are met. Employees who also qualify for short-term disability can also receive leave approved under such a program, with the ability to use parental leave to make up the difference between the disability pay they receive and their full-time salary.  This creates equality for all employees—all employees who qualify for parental leave can take the same amount of leave, while also permitting those who qualify for short-term disability to receive the full amount of benefits available under the plan based on their medical conditions, usually for parents that give birth to a child.

There has been a recent shift in workplaces around the country toward recognizing and respecting all family structures, particularly regarding parental leave policies. Employers should create and update their parental leave policies to ensure their employees can take time to care for and bond with new additions to their families. Inclusivity and fairness are key for ensuring that parental leave policies are compliant with federal and state laws, as well as appealing to both current and prospective employees.  

If you need help with creating or auditing your parental leave policy, do not hesitate to contact Lipp Law today.


Kathryn Megan Lipp

Katie dedicates her practice to employment separation guidance.
Based on her successful employment litigation practice...Read More