Striking a balance between work and home life is a hard task for many Texans. This becomes an even more important and difficult struggle when life throws a curveball–a happy experience such as a new child or a tough one such as a serious illness in the family, for example. In 1993, federal lawmakers recognized that American workers need time to themselves in such circumstances and enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The Family and Medical Leave Act is separate from one’s employment benefits, as it is an actual employment right. It allows workers to take job protected leaves in the event of the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, or due to a serious illness or that of an immediate family member. These leaves do not have to be paid, but employers can choose to offer paid FMLA leaves as an employment benefit.
As it stands, not all employees qualify for FMLA leaves. In order to qualify, one must have worked at a company that has 50 or more employees at the site or within 75 miles for at least one year. In the year leading up to the leave, the worker must have clocked at least 1,250 hours.
Workers who qualify can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave in one year, either to take care of a new child or to take care of a spouse, child or parent who is ill. One can also take leave if one has a health condition that makes it impossible to work.
Those who are connected to military service have extra FMLA rights. Service members can take up to 26 weeks of leave to recover from a medical condition or to care for a family member with an illness. Non-service members can also take up to 26 weeks to care for a spouse, parent, child or next of kin if that person is a military service member.
In some cases, unfortunately, employers fail to comply with the FMLA. They wrongfully deny leaves or retaliate against workers who request or take FMLA leaves. In these instances, Texas residents should be aware that they have the right to hold their employer accountable under the law. It is wise to seek legal representation when an employer violates your FMLA rights.
Source: US News and World Report, “Understanding Your Rights Under FMLA,” Lindsay Olson, March 12, 2013