Family Medical Leave Act
The law requires employers to provide employees with unpaid leave from work under certain circumstances. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers employees who work for an employer with 50 or more employees. Under the FMLA, employees may receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid vacation per calendar year.
In order to qualify for FMLA protected leave, you must have been an employee for at least one year and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours.
While an employee is on approved leave, the employee’s health, dental, and vision benefits must be maintained. Your employer may require you to use your paid sick or vacation leave during the time you are away from work. An employer is not allowed to retaliate against an employee for taking protected leave. When you return, your employer must provide you with the same or a similar position that you held before you took leave.
You may qualify for a protective leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act if:
- You need to take time off to care for the serious medical needs of yourself or certain family members
- You are pregnant, recently had a baby, adopted a baby, or are placed with a child in foster care (this is commonly referred to as “maternity leave” or “paternity leave”)
You may have been denied a protective leave of absence under the FMLA if:
- You need to take leave for one of the reasons listed above, and your employer denies your request.
- You return from your leave, and your employer refuses to give your job back.
- You are harassed, denied a promotion, or fired because you used or requested any of the benefits listed above.
- Your employer fires you or reduces the number of hours you work so that you will not qualify for leave.
- Your employer has a policy—either official or unofficial—that employees are not supposed to take leave for any reason. Many individual states have similar protections as the FMLA. For instance, Minnesota’s state law applies to employers with twenty-one employees or more, and allows an employee to take up to six weeks of unpaid leave.