Labor and Employment

An Introduction to the Family Medical Leave Act

In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It became the first national law to guarantee people the right to take time from work to care for themselves or family members. It also allows most parents to take time when they have a new child, whether a natural child or adoption. The act makes it illegal for most employers to penalize or fire workers for taking medical leaves.

What the Family Medical Leave Act Covers?

You can use the Family Medical Leave Act to take time from work after child-birth, adoption or accepting a foster child. You can take time to care for your spouse, child or parent if the family member is seriously sick or injured. You can also use the act to care for yourself if you have a health condition that stops you from doing your job. Generally, this means your condition required a doctor's care and at least three consecutive days off work.

Employers and the Family Medical Leave Act

Employers who have at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius must follow the Family Medical Leave Act. Employers must give their workers up to 12 weeks a year off for health reasons or for having a new child. Employers do not need to pay an employee for time taken under the act. Employers may also require workers to first use up regular medical days before using the FMLA. An employer subject to the FMLA cannot fire or demote a worker who takes time from work for a covered reason.

Workers and the Family Medical Leave Act

If you know you will be taking time from work under the Family Medical Leave Act, you must give your employer thirty days advance notice. For example, if you want time off for the birth of a child, you should let your employer know a month ahead of time. If you take time off because of an unexpected injury or illness, you need to have your doctor certify your medical condition. You may be asked to provide more than one medical opinion by your employer

Family Medical Leave Act Penalties

If your employer violates your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, you may sue. A judge can order an employer to pay you for any money you lost because of the violation. You can also file a complaint against your employer with the U.S. Department of Labor. A covered employer must post a notice in the workplace explaining your rights under the act.

A Family Law or Employment Lawyer Can Help

The laws surrounding the Family Medical Leave Act can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact family law or an employment lawyer.

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