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The Family and Medical Leave Act: Do you have all the facts?

It's nice to have a job where you get a week (or several) of paid vacation from your California employer. You probably look forward to those days each year, perhaps making plans to travel or spend time enjoying other special activities with your family. Having time away from everyday work stress can help rejuvenate your spirit and give you renewed energy to tackle all the tasks that will likely be waiting for you upon your return.

Life definitely has a way of throwing curve balls from time to time, however. You just never know when an urgent situation may arise where your family needs you at home but you have already used all your paid leave at work. The U.S. government understands this as well, and that's why it enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows you to tend to your family's needs without placing your job at risk.

Know your rights if problems arise

Many California workers have endured their employer's unfair practices in the workplace. It's important to know your rights ahead of time, as well as where to turn for support if you find yourself out of a job after taking unpaid family or medical leave. The following information may be helpful in such circumstances:

  • By law, FMLA protects you from unjust termination when you take time off work to tend to family needs after you have already used your vacation and sick leave time.
  • Although you do not get paid, FMLA states that you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months due to urgent family or medical reasons.
  • Your reasons for requesting unpaid leave must be included on the list of approved reasons provided in FMLA statutes.
  • Although FMLA applies to all local, state and federal employers, private employers must comply only if they have employed 50 or more workers for 20 or more weeks in the current or previous year.
  • As with most government programs, you must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for FMLA.

The length of your employment with a covered employer is a determining factor of eligibility. Childbirth, serious adverse health conditions and military active duty are among approved conditions that make you eligible for unpaid leave under FMLA.

Protecting your rights

It would be nice if things would always go smoothly when requesting unpaid family or medical leave at work. The reality is that many California workers, as well as those in other states, often face tremendous challenges when they ask for additional time off to tend to familial or personal medical needs. An attorney experienced in employment law can be a great asset if problems arise regarding FMLA.

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