If you are pregnant and, like me, plan to (sob!) continue working after your little one arrives, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (hereinafter referred to as the FMLA), may entitle you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of your child and for the care of your child during the first year following birth. However, only certain employers are required to provide FMLA leave. If the company you work for has 50 or more employees or is a public agency or elementary or secondary school, then the company is subject to the FMLA. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. Additionally, your employer must have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work location. If all of these requirements are met, then you are eligible for FMLA leave.
Some employers may offer full or partial compensation during this time, but they are not required to do so. However, an employee's decision to take advantage of this leave time cannot have an adverse effect on her employment status or consideration for promotion. In other words, the employer must treat her as though she never took the leave in the first place.
The FMLA requires that you provide your employer with 30 days notice, so you should plan to speak with your human resources department well in advance of your due date. This will give you time to familiarize yourself with your employer's policy and make sure that you do everything you need to do in order to comply with their requirements.
Once you do return to work, you also have certain rights as a breastfeeding mother. The Fair Labor Standards Act (hereinafter referred to as the FLSA) requires that employers provide nursing mothers with breaks in order to express breast milk. The employers must allow employees to take breaks any time that they need to express breast milk. Women must be given adequate time to pump, and they must also be given a designated private area, other than a bathroom, that is free from intrusion by other employees.
Be aware that the FLSA does not require employers to pay women for time taken to express breast milk. In addition, employers with less than 50 employees may be exempted from providing breaks for nursing mothers if they can demonstrate that to due so would constitute an undue hardship for the employer. For more information on breastfeeding and the workplace, visit the Department of Labor website.
Also, check with your state government to see what state laws may be available to you. Sometimes, states have greater protection for employees than the federal law. By doing business in your state, your employer has subjected himself to your state's laws, so you are entitled to reap those benefits as well.