Family Leave And You: Know Your Rights

Posted on: 17 October 2022

Virtually every employee is going to need some time off because of family issues, such as childbirth, a severe illness or injury, or caring for a family member with a serious health problem, at some point or another. When these types of life events occur, you should not have to worry about dealing with negative consequences in the workplace just because you need some time off. This article takes a closer look at the legal aspects of family leave and employment.

Federal Law

The key law dealing with family leave issues is the Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA) of 1993. The law was passed by Congress to make sure that employees who had certain issues that prevented them from coming to work could take leave without being punished by their employers. A key point regarding the act, however, is that it only applies to specific types of employers and only to eligible employees.

The FMLA applies to private employers who have 50 or more workers who are employed for at least 20 weeks a year. Private employers who do not meet these conditions are not covered by the law. All federal, state, and local government employers, however, fall under the scope of the FMLA.

Workers who want to claim their rights under federal law must meet certain conditions to be eligible. First, they must work for an employer who is covered. Also, the worker must have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months before they take leave.


The FMLA gives important rights to covered workers who require family leave. You have the right to 12 weeks of leave for any issue that is covered by the law, including childbirth, adoption, or a serious medical condition involving either you or an immediate family member. There are also provisions for taking leave if you are in the National Guard or a military reserve or have a close family member who is in one of these services.

The law protects you from losing your job because you took family leave and also prevents an employer from retaliating against you by demoting you or harassing you because you exercised your rights. Nor can the employer try to coerce you into coming back to work sooner than you wish. The employer must also continue your health insurance during the time you are away. You do not have the right to any wages, however, as the leave is unpaid.

State Laws

Some states have their own laws regarding family leave that expand upon the FMLA. California, for example, gives 8 weeks of paid leave to eligible employees who are seriously ill or caring for a seriously ill family member, while New Hampshire provides paid leave for eligible employees facing the same circumstances that qualify someone for unpaid leave under the FMLA.

If you feel that an employer has violated your family leave rights, contact a workplace discrimination attorney to discuss your options.