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Parental Leave for Local Government Employees

September 9, 2015 by Flannary Collins
Category: Leave Policies

Parental Leave for Local Government Employees

My recent maternity leave (my second child was born in March) got me thinking about the confusing mix of laws that governs a local government employee’s right to maternity disability leave and to parental leave to care for a new baby, a newly adopted child, or a recently placed foster child.

Governing Laws. These leaves are governed by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and by three Washington State laws:

One catch is that not all these laws apply equally to all employers; the number of employees matters here. As detailed by the graph below, the magic number for FMLA and FLA application is 50 or more employees (within a 75-mile radius). If an agency has less than 50 but more than 8 employees, the FCA and the Maternity Disability Leave regulation apply, and if an agency has less than 8 employees, only the FCA applies.

Number of Employees Applicable Law
  FMLA FLA Maternity Disability Leave FCA
Less than 8 N/A N/A N/A X
8-49 N/A N/A X X
50 or more X X X X

Here are the basic leave allowances for each law:


  • 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth of a child, newly adopted child, or recently placed foster child, and to bond with the child within one year of birth, adoption, or placement.
  • Leave may be taken intermittently, but only with agency approval.
  • Applies to both men and women.


  • Same unpaid leave entitlement as the FMLA.
  • Leave may be taken intermittently, but only with agency approval.
  • Applies to both men and women.

Maternity Disability Leave:

  • Unlimited, unpaid leave.
  • Leave must be supported by certification from a medical provider.
  • Applies only to women for the entire time a woman is temporarily sick/disabled because of pregnancy or childbirth.


  • Employees must be allowed to use their sick leave, vacation leave, and other paid time off to care for a sick family member, including caring for a spouse or domestic partner who is recovering from childbirth.

Which Laws Run Concurrently? One of the more complicated things about the different leave laws is which run concurrently. The main thing to keep in mind is that the FLA and the Maternity Disability Leave cannot run concurrently with each other. The FMLA can run concurrently with the FLA and the Maternity Disability Leave but not with both at the same time, because the two Washington laws have to run separately. Here are three scenarios to show how this works in practice:

Scenario one: Megan has a healthy pregnancy and works until she has her baby girl, without taking any time off prior to the birth. After her daughter is born, Megan’s doctor indicates she needs six weeks to recover from childbirth, after which she is released as recovered. Megan is entitled to 18 weeks of leave.

Weeks 1-6:
Childbirth and recovery from childbirth
Weeks 6-12:
Newborn care and bonding
Weeks 12-18:
Newborn care and bonding
Maternity Disability Leave  X  N/A N/A

Scenario two: Amanda has complications during her pregnancy and the doctor indicates she needs to stop working and go on bed rest, which she does for six weeks until her baby boy is born. After her son is born, Amanda’s doctor indicates she needs six weeks to recover from childbirth, after which she is released as recovered. Amanda is entitled to 24 weeks of leave:

Weeks 1-6:
octor-ordered bed rest
Weeks 6-12:
Childbirth and recovery from childbirth
Weeks 12-24:
Newborn care and bonding
Maternity Disability Leave  X  X  N/A

Scenario three: Thomas’s wife gives birth to healthy twins. Thomas is entitled to 12 weeks of leave, to help care for and bond with the baby.

Weeks 1-12:
Newborn care and bonding
Maternity Disability Leave Does not apply to Thomas

More Generous Benefits. On another, related, note some private and public sector employers provide more generous parental leave benefits above and beyond those required by federal and state law. For example, Netflix has a new policy allowing for unlimited, paid time off during the first year after a child’s birth or adoption. (The policy is not offered to all employees, only to certain salaried employees.)  A recent New York Times article highlights other private companies, like Microsoft and IBM, that are increasing their paid parental leave and embracing other family-friendly benefits.

The public sector is also recognizing the value of paid parental leave. Just this year, the city of Seattle began to provide four weeks of paid parental leave to all of its employees, both women and men. The four weeks of paid leave is in addition to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave, and can be taken at any time within the first year of the birth of a new child or the placing of a foster or adopted child. And, King County is proposing to offer 12 weeks of paid parental leave, commencing in January 2016.

Additional Information. The information in this blog post about the various parental leave laws is not exhaustive, and there are more factors that play into whether an employee is entitled to leave (like length of employment and hours worked). Also, agencies may have additional local requirements for parental leave, such as requiring employees to use all available paid leave during the FMLA leave period. Here are some resources for additional information about parental leave:

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Flannary Collins

Flannary Collins is the Managing Attorney for MRSC. She first joined the organization as a legal consultant in August 2013 after working for ten years as the assistant city attorney for the city of Shoreline. At MRSC, Flannary enjoys providing legal guidance to municipalities through inquiry assistance and in-person trainings on municipal issues, with a heavy emphasis on the Public Records Act.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Flannary Collins


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