PARENTAL LEAVE UNDER THE MBA
In 2017, the Writers Guild negotiated Article 68 of the MBA giving writers and writer-producers employed on the staff of an episodic series or serial the right to take up to eight weeks of leave to care for a new child. Guild members advocated for this leave as necessary to protect their writing careers at a point in their lives when they needed time with their families. The need to provide leave rights under the MBA was particularly acute because laws that protect workers in many other sectors of the economy frequently do not apply to writers due to the seasonal or intermittent nature of their employment.
Article 68 entitles qualified writers on television and new media series to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn child, newly adopted child, or foster child. The leave must be taken within a year of the birth, adoption, or placement of the child.
Under the provision, writers must request leave at least 30 days in advance, unless such notice is impracticable, in which case the writer should make the request within a reasonable time. The Company must reinstate the writer to his or her original position on the series, provided the position continues to exist upon conclusion of the leave. All of these new rights are enforceable by the Guild through the arbitration provisions in the MBA.
If you have questions or issues related to parental leave, or other rights of new parents, contact the Guild’s Legal Department at (323) 782-4521.
STATUTORY LEAVE RIGHTS
In addition to the parental leave provision in the MBA, some writers may be entitled to leave under an assortment of state and federal statutes. Leave periods under these laws run concurrently with the MBA-protected leave, and each law has different requirements for eligibility. The primary statutes that may be of use to writers are the following:
- Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):
FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn baby or with an adopted or foster child. It can also be taken for an employee’s serious health condition or to care for a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner with a serious health condition. This right to leave applies if the employer has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius of the work site, the employee has worked for the employer for the last 12 months, and the employee has worked for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA):
Writers employed in California may also be covered by CFRA, which provides leave rights similar to the FMLA and has the same qualification requirements. CFRA specifically includes same-sex domestic partners as parents. It does not apply to pregnancy related conditions, which are covered under a separate law, outlined below.
- California Pregnancy Disability Law (PDL):
PDL allows up to four months of job protected leave to persons disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. The period of job projection is determined by the amount of time a health care provider certifies a disability. Generally, health care providers certify a pregnant woman disabled four weeks before childbirth and six weeks after vaginal delivery or eight weeks after caesarian section. This law applies if the employer has at least five employees.
- Other State Laws
Many other states have their own leave laws. Call the Guild’s Legal Department if you have questions about a specific state’s laws.
PAY DURING LEAVE
Unless provided in a writer’s contract, Companies are not required to pay writers during parental or pregnancy leave. In California, limited income replacement benefits may be available under two laws funded by payroll deductions:
- State Disability Insurance
State disability insurance may pay women certified by a medical provider as disabled related to pregnancy during the period of disability. This is generally four weeks prior to childbirth, and six weeks after vaginal delivery or eight weeks after a cesarean section.
- Paid Family Leave
Paid family leave may pay up to six weeks during leave to bond with a newborn baby, newly adopted or foster child, or to care for a parent, child, spouse or domestic partner with a serious health problem. Paid family leave can be paid for time after disability pay stops.
To learn whether you qualify for income replacement and to determine the amount of the benefit, contact the California Employment Development Department.
California law provides a number of other workplace protections related to pregnancy and childcare:
- Accommodation during Pregnancy
California law requires employers with five or more employees to provide pregnant workers reasonable accommodations, such as a chair, help with heavy lifting, and frequent bathroom breaks. Employers are also prohibited from forcing a pregnant woman to take leave when she has not requested it.
- Lactation Accommodation
California law also requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time and make a reasonable effort to provide a private space, other than a toilet stall, close to the employee’s work area, to accommodate an employee to express breastmilk for her baby.