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Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act

Most California employees are able to draw distinct lines between their personal and professional lives. There are times, however, when family-related situations and emergencies make it difficult or impossible to continue to work. Thankfully, legal protections allow eligible employees to take the time they need off of work without fear of losing their jobs or experiencing other types of retaliatory actions.

What does the Family and Medical Leave Act mean for you?

The Family and Medical Leave Act, passed in 1993, protects the interests of employees who are new parents or primary caregivers dealing with a serious injury or illness or affected by a family member’s military leave. Per 12-month period, eligible employees are allowed to take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid time off for specific family or medical reasons without fear or losing their jobs. Additionally, during FMLA leave, employees retain any benefits they receive through an employer.

Details of FMLA

Qualifying reasons to take FMLA leave include:

  • The birth or adoption of a child
  • To seek treatment for a serious medical condition or illness
  • To care for an immediate family member with a serious medical condition
  • A “qualifying exigency” that arises due to the military deployment of a spouse, child or parent

Employees who plan to take FMLA leave must inform their employer at least 30 days prior to a leave start date. In emergencies, an employee can still take FMLA leave on short notice, but is required to provide an employer with as much notice as possible.  

FMLA also allows you to take legal action if you lose your job or experience harassment, discrimination or retaliation of any kind as a result of taking a leave.

Your right to fight back

If you are unsure whether you qualify for FMLA leave or you believe you were a victim of unfair or retaliatory treatment for taking leave, it’s important to learn more about your legal rights and options. An employment attorney can provide the guidance and options you need and help determine if legal action may be an appropriate remedy.

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