Life is always evolving. Sometimes families are greeted by newly born or adopted members. Sometimes families experience the significant illness or injury of one of their own. When these joyous and challenging life events occur, the law generally protects the rights of employees to take time off without fear of incurring employment discrimination as a result of that leave.
The federal law that most directly protects these rights is entitled the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While other state and federal laws help to ensure that these rights are respected, the protections afforded employees through the FMLA provide the legal foundation that enables employees to take leave while retaining their positions and avoiding retaliation as a result of making this important choice.
Qualifying employees may take up to 12 weeks of FMLA time over the course of a year for the birth or homecoming of an adopted child. This time is not guaranteed to be paid time off. However, your employer can neither fire you nor discriminate against you in any way for taking this time for a qualifying reason. You can also take up to 12 weeks per year to care for yourself or certain family members suffering from serious health conditions.
In addition, qualifying employees may take up to 26 weeks off in a given year to care for either themselves or certain family members suffering from serious health issues if the affected person is a member of the military. One can take time as a caregiver for a seriously ill or injured spouse, child, parent or next of kin.
In order to qualify for FMLA protections, you must have worked a certain amount prior to taking leave and your employer must be of a certain size. If you have questions about any of these protections and do not feel comfortable approaching your company's human resources department, please contact an experienced attorney who can help.
Source: US News and World Report, "Understanding Your Rights Under FMLA," Lindsay Olson, Mar. 12, 2013