Federal Family and Medical Leave Act: Know Your Rights

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Dealing with a serious illness in the family is a very stressful event. I did not really understand the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) until recently, and I think everyone should be familiar with it. This law helps ensure that no worker is forced to choose between a job and his or her health or family’s needs.

In general, if you work for a business with 50 or more employees and have worked with their for at least a year, then the FMLA requires them to allow you up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave within a 12-month period in the following situations:

  • to care for a new child, whether for the birth of a son or daughter, or for the adoption or placement of a child in foster care;
  • to care for a seriously-ill family member (spouse, child or parent);
  • to recover from a worker’s own serious illness;
  • to care for an injured servicemember in the family; or
  • to address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.

This is in addition to whatever paid leave benefits your workplace may offer.

Individual states have enacted laws that reduce the minimum business size and also expand the definition of eligible family members, for example to include domestic partners or grandparents. The Wikipedia FMLA page offers a good summary.

Many employers will not volunteer this information to you, as it often puts them in uncomfortable and costly positions due to having to find temporary replacements and also holding your job for you. They may even put up resistance to it. Definitely read up on this law and know your rights.

If you feel you have experienced a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, you can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Contacting a lawyer who works in that area would also be wise, especially if you seek damages.

What about health insurance benefits during unpaid leave?
Under the FMLA, an employer must maintain the employee’s existing level of coverage (including family or dependent coverage) under a group health plan during the period of FMLA leave, provided the employee pays his or her share of the premiums.

More reading
U.S. Department of Labor
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Fact Sheet
National Partnership for Women & Families

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  1. Hope everything is fine.

  2. Know your “rights”? Really, it’s more like “know your government mandated benefits.” You can have a true right to something someone else is being forced to provide.

  3. It’s not really “My Money Blog” anymore – you haven’t posted your money info since Nov…..

  4. Thank you for continuing to post and share helpful information under what may be trying circumstances, Jonathan.

    Your blog is one of a few must-have bookmarks in my browser, and has been for along time. I’m sure you have many, many other devoted and grateful readers.

  5. So because law enforcement is forced to provide me a warrant to search my house that the 4th is not a true right? What about my accusers being forced to provide me a trial of my peers (should I want it and if I haven’t waived it through arbitration in civil cases) that the 6th and 7th are not true rights?

    If you think something shouldn’t be a right; you do have ways of changing it. In this particular case I wish you luck, people generally like being able to spend time with a newborn or a very sick or dying grandparent.

  6. This site has gotten worse since the fall of 2008. It has been very boring with a bunch crap for links/posts.

  7. I was wondering why the site had lost its way for the past 6 months or so (up to and including the weird frequent Costco offers and the recent ‘scam’ experiment).

    Now I know why and I’m sorry for the troubles that you or your loved ones are having.

    I hope you are all well, and if not, I hope that there are rays of sunshine on the horizon.

    I’ll keep clicking away here to try to support your family in your time of need.

  8. I’ve never worked for a company that tried to deny me the government mandated FMLA leave (rights come from God not Government). Only problem with that though is that I’ve never been with a company long enough to qualify at the time I needed it and even if I did qualify, taking unpaid leave is out of the question for me. Last child birth I just took all my sick leave and vacation leave that I had left and because I work in IT, I’m able to work from home 1 day out of the week plus my boss is very understanding and will let us work from home when life happens.

  9. “So because law enforcement is forced to provide me a warrant to search my house that the 4th is not a true right? ”

    No, rights can be violated — that’s why we form governments. And in this case you’re saying having the government NOT do something is the same as having them force someone else to provide you something. In fact, your right to privacy — just as your right not to be murdered — exists whether or not it’s being protected. Your right to those things requires only restraint by others, not the active provision of goods or services. The benefit of mandatory leave, as nice as that might be, requires the government to impose a cost on someone who must provide you the benefit. That’s not a right, it’s a perk, and someone pays for it. We can’t even all enjoy it at the same time, as we can with true inalienable rights. This is a difference long recognized in political literature and international law, even if many now want to blur the distinction.

  10. Thank God that Conor & Ayn Rand are not in yet in charge. Even the Tea Partiers clamor for their Medicare “rights” or “privileges” or “shameless freeloading”.

    Good luck, Jonathan.

  11. Chris in Boston says

    Conor…. AMEN!

    People often twist privilege or benefits into “rights”. Sadly folks like Donald, and JohnC have no clue what the “Bill of Rights” document really is. (Or the constitution for that matter).

    It has nothing to do with the Tea Partiers. How about READ and UNDERSTAND these documents folks! Would it hurt you to understand the tenements of the core of our freedoms?

    Typical liberal responses… typical sense of entitlement.

    The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act is not a set of rights! Its a defined benefit program! I am not saying its a BAD thing. However you should at least understand that this is NOT a right. Its a defined benefit that others are paying for on your behalf.

  12. Chris in Boston:

    Please consult a dictionary and look up the word “tenement.” You probably mean “tenet.” Sloppy word usage can indicate sloppy thinking, which seems to be the case here.

  13. Chris in Boston,

    I understand the meaning of words…

    I also understand that a sense of entitlement cuts both ways. Everyone with a privilege, whether acquired through government action or the fortune of birth, wants to believe that their privilege is God-given. I do not think that anyone here was even discussing the rights enumerated in the Constitution.

  14. I appreciate all my readers. I know that it is only by choice that you come by, and I hope that you find useful what I am able to provide at this time. I hope to return to full force soon.

    It’s no wonder the first subheading under Rights in Wikipedia is “A wide variety of meanings”.


    How about just “know your rights under the law”

  15. wierdest comments i’ve seen on this site so far. a mix of bashes, symantic/political arguing and sympathy.

    Since I first heard about this blog several years ago, I’ve always appreciated the thoughtful posting, useful information, and bonuses and/or deals. Further, although I am not at the same stage of life as Jonathan, I understand that I will usually face a similar/relevent event in my life and I love having this site for reference. It is really the only blog I read regularly.

    I had noticed a slowdown in posting but that is a bloggers prerogative, especially when a blog serves to organize an individual thoughts regarding a specific subject. As your money might seem less important at the moment, so slows posting.

    Hope everyone is doing alright.

  16. As legal residents of this country we have the “right” of access and protection of all of it’s laws. Even illegal residents have rights to certain of our laws.

  17. History repeats itself over and over…

    Johnson, full of beans after his Medicare victory, realized all of this.

    “The doubters predicted a scandal; we gave them a success story,” he crowed a month after the law took effect, as hundreds of thousands of patients entered hospitals for treatment covered by the government and some 6 million children and needy adults began getting benefits.

    “Where are the doubters tonight?” he asked. “Where are the prophets of crisis and catastrophe? Well, some of them are signing their applications; some of them are mailing in their Medicare cards because they now want to share in the success of this program.”

  18. Sorry for my comment on the newer post, I obviously hadn’t read this post yet!

    Take care of yourself and your family.

  19. Robert said -“Rights come from God not Government.”

    Crap, I’m an atheist! I just lost all my rights! 😉

  20. do I have a case? Gave notice of FMLA for person surgery one week later terminated due to “downsizing”. do you think I have right to ask for benefits to be paid for the time I would have been off?

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