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Parental leave: Know your legal rights — and talk to your boss

Parenting while employed requires flexibility. New babies, sick toddlers and special events don’t always fit into the traditional 9-to-5 workday. But studies show that parents face extra scrutiny for taking parental leave or requesting a flexible schedule even when they perform well at work.


Seattle employment attorney Lindsay Halm says that employers aren’t required to provide paid leave — with a few limited exceptions. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will protect your job for up to 12 weeks after you’ve had a baby or adopted a child, but doesn’t require your employer to continue paying you. This becomes a challenge for families when deciding how much time they can afford to take off.


If your company doesn’t provide FMLA — for example, if it’s a smaller company with less than 50 employees — protecting your job will be based on a dialogue with your employer, says Halm.


Communicating early (and often) is important, as is being upfront about your desire to keep working. Following an in-person discussion, Halm recommends “sending an email summarizing your conversation, noting what you discussed and confirming you’re on the same page.”


Remain open-minded about working with your employer. If you reach a stalemate, consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in employee-side workplace rights.

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