Employers are not required by law to provide paid sick leave. Under certain circumstances, however, many employers are required to allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to all federal, state, and local government employers, as well as to private employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Eligible Employees Can Take Unpaid Leave
To be eligible for family or medical leave, you must have worked for an employer covered by the law for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before starting the leave. You must give the employer written notice at least 30 days before starting leave, except in an emergency. You must provide proof of the qualifying reason for taking the time off work.
You May Use the Leave Only for Certain Purposes
The law allows you to take time off in a limited number of situations. You may take medical leave if you cannot work because of a serious health condition or if you must care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. An immediate family member is a parent, spouse, or child. You may take family leave to care for a newborn, a newly placed foster child, or newly adopted child.
Your Employer Can Ask for Medical Proof
Your employer has the right to request proof that you or a family member has a serious health condition. The term "serious health condition" means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or medical condition that requires inpatient care or continuing treatment. Examples of qualifying conditions include pregnancy, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes.
Military Family Members Have Expanded FMLA Rights
A 2009 amendment to the FMLA allows the child, spouse, parent, or next-of-kin of an armed forces service member with a serious injury or illness to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid caregiver leave. The amendment also allows families of Reserve or National Guard members to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with issues related to the service member's call to active duty.
Job and Benefits Are Protected During Your Absence
During your FMLA leave, your employer must continue to pay for your health insurance coverage. The employer cannot harass you or discriminate against you for taking leave. When you return, you must either be reinstated to your former position or be given an equivalent job without forfeiting pay, benefits, or seniority.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding FMLA leave is 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 an employment law lawyer.