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Employment Law -- Employee

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What is the Family And Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was created to make it easier for employees to more easily cope with the challenging demands of raising a family. The law also promotes equal employment opportunities for men and women by allowing women the freedom to take time off work to start a family.

The FMLA applies to companies with 50 employees or more in one location or 50 employees within a 75­-mile radius. It helps workers who may require time off for personal reasons. It allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (there is no federal guarantee of paid leave) and guarantees that the employee can return to the same or similar position at the end of that period.

The FMLA allows leave for the following reasons:

  • Giving birth and/or caring for a newborn child
  • Adopting or fostering a child
  • Caring for an immediate family member (including spouse, children, or parents) who are suffering from a severe illness or injury
  • Taking medical leave when the employee’s condition prevents them from working

The law also requires that your employer maintain your work-provided health insurance benefits if you have any.

To qualify for FMLA leave, you must be at your company for at least one year and work for than 24 hours a week during that time. Usually, your employer will require a doctor’s note to justify your taking leave.

Some states have also enacted family and medical leave laws, some of which provide higher amounts of leave and benefits than those provided by FMLA. In those situations where an employee is covered by both Federal and State FMLA laws, the employee is entitled to the greater benefit or more generous rights provided under the different parts of each law.

Does the FMLA Cover Every Employee?

If you work at a qualifying workplace, your employer may deny leave to any key employee who receives a salary in the top 10% of the workforce. They can also deny leave to any employee whose leave would cause “economic harm” to the employer.

If your employer is trying to use this justification against you, it is likely in your best interest to speak with an experienced employment law attorney to fully understand your rights for claiming your leave.

Who Is Considered An Immediate Family Member?

As stated above, your spouse, children, and parents are immediate family members under the FMLA. The term “parent” does not include your in-laws. When it comes to your children, the law does not cover caring for children 18-years-old or older unless they have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from caring for themself.

Will I Lose My Job if I Take FMLA Leave?

Generally, no. It is unlawful for your boss to deny or interfere with any rights covered under FMLA. Your boss cannot use you taking FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions. Your leave cannot be counted under “no-fault” attendance policies.

In short, your employer cannot punish you for taking legitimate FMLA leave. Your boss also should not try to talk you out of using the leave time the law entitles you to.

Can I Take FMLA Leave More Than Once a Year?

You do not have to use all 12 weeks consecutively. For instance, you can take a few weeks of leave to care for yourself. You can then use a few more weeks later in the year if you need to care for yourself again or an immediate family member.

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