Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. This bill and the California Family Rights Act have provided millions of workers with greater protections in the workplace so that they can take care of their newborns and other family members without having to worry about the status of their employment.

Although family leave laws protect many workers in Los Angeles, these laws can be complex and confusing, and not all workers are protected under the FMLA and the CFRA. Some employers might tell workers that they are not protected under these laws when employees really are protected, which might cause some workers to lose their jobs under illegal circumstances. In other situations, employees might feel forced to continue working instead of taking time off of work for a medical condition or to care for a family member when they are wrongly informed about their rights and protections in the workplace.

Under federal leave laws, employees who work at companies that employ 50 or more workers may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks off of work during the year for a serious illness or to care for a new child or to care for an ill spouse, child or parent. Typically, workers must be employed by a company for at least one year before they are eligible to take advantage of family medical leave laws. It is estimated that about one out of every four workers in the U.S. is covered under FMLA protections. Workers in California may have additional protections under the CFRA.

When employees have reason to suspect that their rights have been violated under state and federal family leave laws, employees may want to consult an attorney in order to ensure that their rights remain protected. Workers who are protected under state and federal leave laws should be able to take advantage of these protections when necessary so that they can care for their family members without having to worry about not having a job to return to. And workers should not have to sacrifice these rights for fear of being retaliated against in the workplace or from being terminated.

Source: StarTribune, “Business forum: It’s a successful 20 years for the FMLA,” Marshall H. Tanick, Jan. 27, 2013