Can FMLA Work For You?
You work full time and are having a baby, or you are the primary caregiver for your grandmother and you need time off to help her through an illness. Can FMLA help you?
The answer is yes and no. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. FMLA is intended to give qualified employees the opportunity to take 12 weeks of unpaid work leave during a one-year period under certain circumstances.
Following are conditions under which protected leave can be taken:
- FMLA leave can be taken for the birth and care of the child of the employee. The child could be natural, adopted or a foster child.
- The Act protects employees who must care for a seriously ill spouse, child or parent.
- Leave can be taken in response to serious illness of the employee.
- FMLA leave applies to emergencies relative to active military duty.
FMLA legislation helps workers each year care for themselves and their family without fearing threat of job loss. While FMLA offers protections, it does not offer wide coverage throughout the workforce. Consider these limits:
- While public sector employees are covered, private sector companies with less than 50 employees are not covered under FMLA.
- Definition of family under FMLA is limited. Currently, FMLA leave does not cover care for a grandparent.
- If your employer is required to provide coverage, you must have worked for that employer for 12 months and provided at least 1,250 hours of service in the time before taking FMLA leave.
In current economic conditions, many families have seen wage earners reduced to part-time work, or working several part-time jobs to make ends meet. In these cases, or working full-time for a private-sector employer with few employees, there is no FMLA coverage. If you choose to take unpaid leave for the care of your child or family member, you could lose your job.
The sometimes-narrow protection offered by FMLA may or may not serve you and your family in a medical emergency. If you have questions about FMLA treatment by your employer, seek qualified legal advice.