Most new parents are fortunate enough to get a few weeks off from work to meet the challenges that come with having a newborn. Their employers are generous enough to provide paid maternity leave - and sometimes paid paternity leave.
For working parents without such benefits, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows certain workers to take unpaid leave from their jobs.
As part of President Obama's initiative to expand legal rights to gay couples, the US Labor Department now requires businesses to give gay workers equal treatment.
While flexible enough to cover adoptions and caring for sick family members, in the past the law limited its application to "legal" children rather than any others you may take care of.
FMLA for Domestic Partners
The Obama administration has given same-sex federal workers' partners additional benefits as well as authorized child-care services and other subsidies. Now there's more flexibility to use family leave to attend to the needs of domestic partners and their children.
While benefits will now extend to more people, the law remains unchanged and the wording remains the same. Extending FMLA is a new way of looking at the existing law, not by passing a new law or updating it. There's also no plan to ask Congress to edit the law in any way.
While future presidents can reverse this interpretation, the new rule signifies a new policy.
Who Is a "Son" or "Daughter?"
The current law states that you can take time off to take care of "sons" or "daughters." The new rule expands the definitions of those terms to cover non-biological dependents.
So, now an employee standing in loco parentis (in the shoes of a parent) and covered by the FMLA includes:
- One who chooses to share parenting with a same-sex partner
- An uncle or aunt caring for a young niece or nephew whose parent is on active military duty
- A grandparent who assumes responsibility for their ill grandchild when their own child is unable to do so because of a disability
FMLA helps workers balance their work and family responsibilities by granting time off for family and medical reasons.
Along with guaranteeing your job when you return, it also requires that your group health benefits is maintained during the leave. It allows you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each 12 month period (after working 1000 hours) to take care of family members or yourself, including leave:
- To care for a newborn child
- To care for a recently adopted a child
- To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious medical condition
- To take care of a serious personal health condition
The FMLA applies to all public and private employers with more than 50 employees.
"Family comes first" is the mantra for most of us. We're willing to do whatever it takes to keep our loved ones healthy and safe. The FMLA was written with that very idea in mind. Changes in the law now make it possible for more workers to care for their sick loved ones.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Does my employer have any say in whether I can take leave under the FMLA?
- What happens if I'm laid-off during my FMLA leave?
- Can my employer require me to give a reason for why I want to take a FMLA leave?