October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
After the death of a child or the loss of a pregnancy, undoubtedly, you will grieve. People react differently to a death of a child. It takes time to resume a normal life, and some may struggle. Family members and friends will reach out to console a grieving parent, but you may feel alone when it comes to trying to return to work after your loss.
There are laws which may help a parent keep their job while continuing to grieve. Here is a quick overview of options that may be available to a grieving parent:
- Employee Personnel Handbook: Review this handbook to see if employees are entitled to any time off after the death of a child. An employer may offer paid time off for bereavement. The employer may also permit an employee to take paid time off that would otherwise be qualified as a PTO day, vacation day or sick day.
- Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”): This law applies to all companies with 50 or more employees. In order to qualify for FMLA, one has to have worked at least 1,250 hours within the preceding twelve months. You or your spouse, child or parent must also have a serious health condition. It is best to communicate directly with the Human Resources Department on whether one is entitled to a FMLA leave. If the leave is granted, one’s job, or similar or equivalent job, is protected. During the FMLA leave, which cannot exceed 26 weeks, an employee’s group health insurance coverage is continued under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
- Americans With Disabilities Act and Its Amendments (“ADA”): The ADA covers employees who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. The ADA is a federal law which covers all employers who have at least 15 employees. Due to depression after the loss of a child, you may qualify as an individual with a disability under the ADA. If so, your employer may be required to provide an accommodation such as a more flexible work schedule, time off during the day for medical appointments or breaks during the work day so that you can engage in stress relief exercises. A reasonable accommodation may also involve changing your work environment to minimize unnecessary distractions. For example, one may move to a quieter cubicle or a white noise machine or noise cancelling headphones in order to allow one to concentrate. If one is having difficulty with remembering information due to depression, an employer may be required to supply you with such memory aids as white boards or tape recorders. Again, an employee should make their request to the appropriate people within the human resources department, and the request should be made in writing.
Because each situation is different, it is best to know your company policies, speak with your HR professionals, and consult with an attorney if necessary. There are resources available to help.
heARTbeat is a publication of KingSpry’s Adoption Law and Assisted Reproductive Technology Law Practice Group. It is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.