Help clarify my wife's pregnancy disability situation
September 30, 2012 3:44 PM   Subscribe

In July, mrs. graymouser gave birth to a lovely little baby girl. I need help figuring out exactly what our situation is with regard to her disability and family leave.

OK, so we live in New Jersey (Camden County), and my wife gave birth back in July. Her employer said that she had 6 weeks of time off. For reference, she works at a company in New Jersey (Burlington County) that has right around 50 employees.

Her employer gave her paperwork to fill out for family leave. This got dragged on until after 6 weeks when she went back to work. (We are both working half from the office and half from home.) When family leave got back to her, they finally said she should have filed for disability, and forwarded along the paperwork for that. So now they are trying to work out the disability payments. But we're getting conflicting information about what she should have and be able to do.

What's caused some confusion is exactly what she was eligible for. How much disability should she have had for a vaginal birth in New Jersey? Should she have been able to go out before her due date, and can we do anything about that after the fact? And how should family leave work? Are we entitled to any further time off for her, and if so would any of it be paid time off?
posted by graymouser to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Disability is not related to time off; in this case it probably means private disability, not government disability. In my experience 6 weeks is typical for a vaginal birth.

What is the employer giving her a hard time about? Getting her job back? Benefits? Paid time off? It's not clear. If her employer isn't big enough for FMLA she may be out of luck (unless NJ has state time off mandates) altogether, in any case -- she's entitled to nothing.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:13 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also -- federal medical leave can start before the baby's born but (according to my hr people) that time counts against total leave. I'm not a lawyer, but I have had babies and taken unpaid FMLA leave multiple times.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:16 PM on September 30, 2012

She is back at work, we're trying to figure out exactly what she's supposed to have for disability and family leave - specifically, if she is able to take further family leave for bonding with our daughter and if any of that would be paid, and how to sort out the disability payments.
posted by graymouser at 4:33 PM on September 30, 2012

Ok, so I think there are the questions you need answers to -- start with HR:

Is the company required to give her FMLA? Is she eligible for it if so? Does New Jersey have additional leave on top of FMLA?

What documentation does the disability company require of her condition? How do you file with their (the company's) provider? What's the benefit? Can you still file?

Unfortunately these aren't questions Askme can answer -- they're really for HR at your wife's company.

Questions about your leave go to your HR people. Eligible dads get FMLA, but unless your company decides otherwise, FMLA isn't paid leave.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:03 PM on September 30, 2012

She should ask her HR people specifically if her company and position qualifies her for FMLA. Having "right around 50 employees" is not the same thing as actually having 50 employees, so we can't tell whether her company is required to provide it, and you don't mention whether she has been in her job for more than a year or whether she works enough hours to qualify. Her company is required to provide her with a form from the US Dept of Labor if she qualifies.

FMLA entitles her to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve month period and a return to a position with similar responsibilities and title at the same pay grade. Her company may offer something additional if FMLA applies to them (paid leave/more leave, paid benefits while on leave), or they may offer something instead (like six weeks unpaid leave) if it doesn't. FMLA leave can be taken before the birth, but it does count against total leave. Also, it's generally processed as being taken for a different reason - the "to recover from a worker’s own serious illness" bullet as opposed to the "to care for a new child" bullet.

Disability insurance is totally separate - that's a private company, not a government or employer thing. Most of the time they pay a percentage of your salary for a certain period of time - say 60% for 6 weeks, but you have to take the first week as sick leave or other paid time off. I'm not sure what kind of luck you'll have after the fact, but it's unlikely that she'll get paid disability for time that she takes after she's returned to work - you need to have an actual disability, with a doctor's signature, to collect on this insurance policy. Also, disability is a taxable benefit, so you'd be expected to pay taxes on what you receive, but they will not withhold them for you.

And...speaking of not withholding, the employer may choose not to pay premiums on things like health insurance, life and disability insurance, and other benefits while an employee is on unpaid leave. Frequently, they will make the payments as a courtesy and deduct them from the employee's future checks. Just so you know!

For what it's worth, the fact that her HR department did not handle all of this up front makes me suspect you are out of luck. Good luck to you!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Income replacement:

Disability: In New Jersey, disability insurance is a state program. (There are only a handful of states with this program, which is why most people think of disability insurance as private.) Here is a link on the pregnancy-related income replacement benefits under the program. Assuming you otherwise qualify, it sounds like you may want to file a late claim for disability benefits. See here (" If you submit a claim late, provide a written explanation as to why the claim was delayed.").

Bonding: New Jersey also has a family leave insurance program. (An even smaller handful of states have these.) The web site says this program pays up to six weeks.

Employment protection:

If your wife is covered by FMLA (50 employees w/in 75 mile radius, one years' service, 1250 service hours within the last year), and has only used six weeks, she is entitled to additional unpaid job-protected bonding leave up to a total of 12 weeks. Ditto for you for bonding leave.

There may be independent New Jersey state law protections.

Next steps: Read the websites. Get in your applications for benefits. Talk to HR. If there's a dispute, contact NELA of NJ.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:22 PM on September 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

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