HR Hotline: Does Connecticut FMLA Allow for Bonding Leave?
Q: We have had several employees request FMLA leave after the birth of a baby or a newly-placed child in the home.
None of these employees are mothers: one is a new father, another is a grandparent who was just awarded custody of her five-year-old grandson, and the third employee’s new girlfriend gave birth to a baby that isn’t his.
We have always had a maternity policy for our female employees, but does Connecticut’s FMLA law require us to provide a leave of absence for these employees as well?
A: It appears that each of these employees has requested bonding leave, a leave of absence allowed by Connecticut’s FMLA statute when certain conditions are met.
Employers are required to grant bonding leave to eligible employees upon (1) the birth of the employee’s son or daughter, and to care for the newborn child; and (2) the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care, and to care for the newly-placed child.
Let’s address each of your examples below:
The right to take leave under FMLA applies equally to male and female employees. So, while only a female employee will be eligible to take leave for incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal care, or childbirth, both male and female employees may be eligible for leave to bond with a child.
Your employee who requested FMLA leave after becoming a new father is eligible for 12 weeks of bonding leave, assuming he has worked for you for at least three months.
Your employee who recently gained custody of her grandson will only be eligible for bonding leave if one of two conditions are met: (1) the Department of Children and Families placed the child with the grandparent through Connecticut’s foster care system; or (2) the grandparent has obtained a family court or probate court order, confirming that she has officially adopted the child.
Note that, even if the child has been living with the grandparent for years, the grandparent may begin bonding leave once the state officially recognizes the adoption or foster care placement.
It’s important to note bonding leave is separate and distinct from caregiver leave. A grandparent may take caregiver leave at any time to care for a grandchild with a serious health condition.
Newborn Parent Figure
Finally, your third employee, who has requested leave to bond with his girlfriend’s newly-born child, will be eligible for leave if the child is his “son or daughter.”
The FMLA defines son or daughter as a biological, adopted or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis.
In loco parentis is a Latin term that means “in the place of a parent.” Thus, if your employee is standing in loco parentis for his girlfriend’s infant, he may be eligible for bonding leave.
The in loco parentis relationship exists when an individual has day-to-day responsibilities to care for or financially support a child.
No legal or biological relationship is necessary, and the fact that the child has a biological parent in the home, or has both a mother and father, does not prevent the employee from standing in loco parentis to that child.
As an employer, you may require your employee to submit a simple statement, asserting the name of the child and a statement of the employee’s in loco parentis relationship to the child.
You may not, however, require the employee to submit an affidavit or other sworn document.
HR problems or issues? Email or call CBIA’s Diane Mokriski at the HR Hotline (860.244.1900) | @HRHotline. The HR Hotline is a free service for CBIA member companies.
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