Workplace Rights

Weekly (8/23/21)

Topic of the Week  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Who Qualifies

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was created to help employees balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of their families. The Act requires covered employers to provide reasonable unpaid leave to employees for certain family and medical reasons. Employees are entitled to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid job-protected leave during a 12 month period.

1. I would like to take family or medical leave. How does the law protect me?

Under federal law and some state laws, certain employees have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year (any 12-month period) for the following reasons:

  • you have a serious health condition that keeps you from doing your job;
  • you need to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition;
  • you need to care for a newborn child, newly adopted child, or foster child.
  • you have a family member who is a covered military member on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in support of a contingency operation and need time to manage their affairs

If you are eligible, you may take family leave (leave to care for someone in your family) or medical leave (leave to seek care for or recover from your own serious health condition) without losing your job.

2. How do I request FMLA leave?

If you want to take FMLA leave, the law requires that you provide the following information to your employer:

  • 30-day advance notice of the need to take FMLA leave when the need is foreseeable 
  • you provide notice "as soon as practicable" when the need to take FMLA leave is not foreseeable

The law also requires that:

  • you provide sufficient information for the employer to understand that you need leave for FMLA-qualifying reasons. In other words, you do not need to mention FMLA when requesting leave, but must only explain why the leave is needed
  • where the employer was not made aware that an employee was absent for FMLA reasons and the employee wants the leave counted as FMLA leave, the employee should give timely notice that leave was taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason

3. What do I do in an emergency situation where I cannot give advance notice?

In emergency and unpredictable situations, you should give notice within one or two business days of learning of the need for leave if you will not be returning to work immediately. If you return to work without having previously given notice that your leave was for FMLA reasons, you should notify your employer within two business days that you were absent for FMLA-eligible reasons and that you would like your leave designated as FMLA leave.

Thought of the Week

"Illness can strike at any time—and for workers without access to paid leave, they often must choose between recovering their health and keeping their job or between caring for a loved one and securing their next paycheck. As the coronavirus pandemic has made even clearer, workers should have access to comprehensive paid family and medical leave to care for themselves or a loved one without being faced with this impossible choice."

–Diana Boesch | American Progress

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from American Progress

    Facts on Family and Medical Leave:

    • Low wage workers are less likely to have access to different types of leave
    • Black and Hispanic workers are less likely to have access to paid leave than white workers
    • The Federal Employee Leave Act of 2020 provided up to 12 weeks of leave to 2 mil. federal workers


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