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A new leave will soon be available to new parents in Alabama. The law was enacted in mid-April, when Governor Kay Ivey signed AL S 31, and the leave becomes available on July 1, 2022. The law itself is only seven short paragraphs and, as you’ll read below, lacks some clarity, so we’re hoping the State will provide guidance in the near future – stay tuned. Until such time, we’ve compiled below the main highlights of this new leave law.

What You Need to Know

Leave entitlement:

The new law provides eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for the following reasons:

  • the birth and care of a child during the first year after the birth of the child; and
  • the care of an adopted child during the first year after placement.

There is language which would require employers to consider “additional family leave due to the adoption of an ill child or a child with a disability … on the same basis as comparable cases of complications accompanying the birth of a child”; however, the bill does not expound upon this “additional leave,” so further clarification from the State will be needed.

Employee eligibility and covered employer:

The new law adopts the federal FMLA definitions of an “eligible employee” and “employer”:

  • “Eligible Employees” are those individuals who have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.
  • “Employer” includes public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

Continuous or intermittent leave:

The new law specifies that leave may not be taken intermittently unless otherwise agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

Concurrency with other laws:

This leave will run concurrently with the federal FMLA. The law specifically states that employers are not required to provide “additional family leave to an eligible employee once the employee has exhausted the leave to which the employee is entitled under federal law.” It is unclear whether the FMLA same-employer-married-couple limitation would apply, but it is likely that if an employer elects to impose the same-employer-married-couple limitation, then 12 weeks unpaid leave for each married employee (total of 24 weeks between the two) would constitute “additional family leave.”

Employee notice requirement:

Employees should provide 30-days’ notice of the foreseeable need to take leave based on the expected placement of a child in connection with adoption unless the placement is set to occur in less than 30 days. In the latter case, the employee should provide notice as soon as practicable.

Job protection:

Although the new law does not articulate that an employee will be returned to the same or similar position upon return to work, it does state that employers “may not penalize” employees by taking this leave. This vague anti-retaliation provision should protect the employee’s job, but placement upon return to work is a bit unclear.

Direction regarding paid parental leave policies:

If an employer has an established paid parental leave benefit which provides employees paid leave for the birth and care of a newborn, the new law directs that this paid leave benefit must also be made available to employees for the care of an adopted child during the first year after placement of the child, up to a maximum of 2 weeks of paid leave. If an employer offers less than 2 weeks of paid leave, then only that amount is mandated. Here are some examples to help illustrate:

  • If an employer offers 8 weeks of paid leave for the birth and care of a newborn, the employer must also offer adopting parents 2 weeks of paid leave in connection with the adoption.
  • If the employer offers 1 week of paid leave for the birth and care of a newborn, the employer must also offer adopting parents 1 week of paid leave in connection with the adoption.

If two employees are eligible for leave to care for an adopted child (think same-employer-married-couple limitation), then the employer is only required to offer paid leave benefits to one of the two employees.

What Employers Should Do

Employers with an employee population in Alabama should take note of this new leave entitlement and be prepared to administer this leave by July 1. Additionally, employers with paid parental leave policies should review their policies and make necessary updates to be sure that adopting parents receive paid leave as described above.

What ReedGroup Is Doing

ReedGroup is updating its product offerings to include this new leave, and Client Services will be reaching out to clients with Alabama-based employees to make sure they are aware of the new law and the required changes to paid parental leave policies. If you are looking for assistance managing leave of absence or accommodations or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Review our offerings here.

 

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic. 

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