Changes in Tennessee Maternity Leave Law



The Tennessee Maternity Leave Act was recently amended to allow "maternity leave" for female and male employees.  The amended law, which went into effect on May 27, 2005, changes the gender specific language to include employees generally, and also includes leave for adoptions, which had not been previously covered. 

The law provides that employees, who have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 consecutive months as full-time employees, may be absent for a period not to exceed 4 months for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth and nursing an infant.  The adoption period begins to run at the time an employee receives custody of the child.

Reinstatement is generally required for those employees who give at least 3 months' notice of their anticipated leave, the length of the leave and their intention to return to full-time employment at the end of the leave.  These employees should maintain the same status, pay, service credit and seniority where applicable.  If notice of an adoption was received less than 3 months in advance, an employee's rights are not forfeited.  Leave under this Act generally may be with or without pay according to the employer's discretion.

While on its face the amended law provides the same benefit to male employees as female employees, the practicality of all aspects of the law applying to male employees has yet to be tested.  For example, may a male employee take leave under the Act for "pregnancy" prior to the birth of his child?  As the law is implemented throughout Tennessee workplaces, many more questions will undoubtedly arise on how the Act will impact the rights and responsibilities of male employees.

The law does not apply to employers who employ fewer than 100 full-time employees on a permanent basis.  Additionally, the provisions of the law must be included in employee handbooks published after May 27, 2005.

If you have any questions regarding this update, or any related issue, feel free to contact a member of the Boult Cummings Labor and Employment Team.