Maternity Leave, FMLA, and Nursing Moms
In 2023, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law Act 770, sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin and Representatives Jimmy Gazaway and DeAnn Vaught, which extends the provision to eligible state employees to take up to twelve (12) consecutive weeks of paid maternity leave after the birth, adoption or foster-care placement of an employee’s child.
The catastrophic leave bank for maternity purposes is administered by the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Transformation and Shared Services.
The program requires applicants to have been employed by the state for more than one year. Employees are not required to exhaust their sick or annual leave prior to being awarded catastrophic leave for maternity purposes. The state’s maternity leave program operates with no additional cost to Arkansas taxpayers as the leave hours that are donated to the OPM catastrophic leave bank are already accounted for as an unfunded liability in the state budget.
Over a Thousand Families and Counting
As of Fall 2020, there have been over a thousand families in the state of Arkansas who have directly benefited from the Paid Maternity Leave Program following the passage and implementation of Act 182 of 2017. Furthermore, since the Transformation and Efficiencies Act went into effect on July 1, 2019, all 15 of the Cabinet Level Departments have employees who have participated in the Paid Maternity Leave Program.
FMLA Leave for Pregnancy, Birth of a Child, or Adoption
Under FMLA, eligible mothers and fathers are entitled to receive up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. Mothers are entitled to medical leave for the period of time during which they are physically unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, and related medical conditions. Both mothers and fathers are entitled to family leave to care for a new baby, newly adopted child, or newly placed foster child. This leave may be taken within the first year of a child’s entry into the family. (Note: Spouses who are both employed by the state are entitled to a total of twelve weeks of leave, rather than twelve weeks each, for the birth, adoption, or placement of a child.)
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
On June 27, 2023, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) went into effect. The PWFA is federal law that requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have a known limitation due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Reasonable accommodations include changes to the work environment or to the way things are usually done at work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has drafted regulations to carry out this new law. The draft regulations have been published for public comment.
Returning to Work: Nursing Mothers
Federal and state law require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child each time such employee has need to express the milk for one year after the child’s birth (Section 7 of the FLSA). Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Fair Labor and Standards Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
For questions about the paid maternity leave and catastrophic leave program, including FMLA benefits and Section 7 of the FLSA, please contact the Office of Personnel Management at (501) 682-1753.
ARBenefits Enrollment & Change Form
How to Enroll Online through ARBenefits
Catastrophic Leave – Application for Maternity Eligibility Verification
Catastrophic Leave – Application for Maternity Purposes
Catastrophic Leave – Application for Medical Emergency
Catastrophic Leave – Donation
Catastrophic Leave – Physicians Certification
Catastrophic Leave – Return of Accrual Leave Transmittal
FMLA – Designation Notice
FMLA – Healthcare Provider for Employee Serious Health Condition
FMLA – Healthcare Provider for Family Member Serious Health Condition
FMLA – Leave Request
FMLA – Notice of Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities