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Am I eligible for FMLA leave in California?

If you have never heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) this federal provision allows employees 12 weeks unpaid leave in which to care for a family member or themselves after a serious accident or the diagnosis of a medical condition, among other things.

Under the FMLA, California workers are guaranteed their insurance benefits and job security when they return at the end of the leave. Some employees may choose to use leave during a pregnancy or after the birth or adoption of a child.

In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, all of the following must be met:

  • You are employed at a company with 50 or more employees
  • In the last seven years, you worked no fewer than 12 months for your employer
  • During the prior year, you have to have worked no fewer than 1,250 hours, exempting all vacation and sick days

There are drawbacks to taking FMLA leave, however. Your employer is under no obligation to continue paying you, although if it is offered, you may qualify for short-term disability payments. One way to get around that is to use vacation or sick leave since you could still get paid for at least a portion of your time off. Then, when that time is exhausted, you can apply for FMLA leave.

The paperwork associated with FMLA leave can take awhile to process, dependent upon the size of the company and the efficiency of its human resources department. It's always best to get your ducks in line early as soon as you anticipate that you will need the time off. For instance, if you are taking leave to help a close relative after surgery, as soon as you know when the surgery will take place, submit your FMLA application.

Some leaves require physicians to certify that their patients have a medical necessity for taking leave, so that is another reason to act immediately upon determining that there is a need for the leave.

Those facing discrimination in the workplace over a FMLA leave may need to take legal action to secure their jobs.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center, "FMLA and maternity leave: What you need to know," Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D., accessed Dec. 15, 2017

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