Since 1993, the United States has had in place legislation that provides the legal right for employees to take time off of work without negative repercussions when needed for select personal reasons. This law, known as the Family and Medical Leave Act, offers rights similar to those that people have when performing jury duty. Employers are essentially barred from firing people serving on juries or taking care of ill family members, for example.
Certainly there are specific provisions which must be adhered to in order for the law to be in effect. The United States Department of Labor explains the job protection that is provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employees can take up to 12 or 26 weeks off of work with no pay but still retain their full medical benefits during that time. Up to 12 weeks of time per 12-month period is allowed to provide care for:
- Newborn infants born to the employee, adopted by the employee or placed in the employee’s foster care.
- Children of any age adopted by the employee or placed in the employee’s foster care.
- Spouses, parents or children with serious medical conditions.
A special provision is included in the law which allows people to take up to 26 weeks off of work during a single 12-month period if the injured or ill person is a member of the U.S. military. In these cases, employees can utilize the Family and Medical Leave Act not only for spouses, parents or children but also for any other blood relative for whom they have legal guardianship or custody.
U.S. News indicates the importance of employees learning specific processes and requirements of their employers, as some can vary. For example, employers do have the right to request verification of the medical condition and, when asked for this, employees must provide it. This, however, does not require disclosure of confidential medical or personal data. Generally a standard certification form can be provided and employers are not allowed to ask for any documentation beyond that.
In addition, it may be wise for employees to consider utilizing any paid leave options, such as untaken vacation or sick days, before tapping into the FMLA benefits which suspend actual wage earning. Another important point for people to know is that while job protection is guaranteed, the exact job that was held prior to leave commencing does not have to be the exact job received upon returning to work. The FMLA stipulates that employers must simply provide a job of equivalent responsibility and compensation in order to be in compliance with the law.
The Family and Medical Leave Act can offer great assistance to families in times of need. Getting clarity on what it entails is always beneficial.