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Family & Medical Leave

Welcome to FindLaw's Family and Medical Leave section. Here you will find information on federal and state laws that address when and how an employee can take time off from work to deal with their own health issue or that of a family member. Federally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid leave for qualifying employees. FMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees, but some states have additional protections, including limited paid leave or coverage of smaller employers.

There are other types of unpaid leave required by law, including time off for voting or serving on a jury, but paid sick leave is required in just certain jurisdiction, while vacation is never mandated. Learn more about family and medical leave, including the FMLA and state laws, by clicking on a topic below.

FMLA at a Glance

The FMLA those who have worked at a company with at least 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks leave for a family or medical needs. To be eligible, the employee must have worked at the company for at least one year (and at least 1,250 hours). While some employers may offer an extended paid leave policy, this law does not require them to do so. Under FMLA, leave may be taken for the following purposes:

  • Birth, adoption, placement of a child
  • Care for an immediate family member (spouse, minor or incompetent child, parent) with a "serious health condition"
  • Care for employee's own "serious health condition"

A serious health condition, as defined by the law, is an illness, injury, or condition involving absence from work; hospital care; treatment for a chronic condition; pregnancy; and related issues. It is always a good idea to give your employer advance notice of FMLA leave, and medical certification may be requested. But keep in mind that employees are not required to specify the law under which they are taking leave. The FMLA requires employers to restore an employee to his former (or equivalent) job when returning to work.

State Leave Laws

Most states do not offer additional family and medical leave protections. But some states (including the District of Columbia) offer paid family leave or specific leave laws that apply to pregnancy, birth, or adoption. Most of these laws also specifically allow this leave to be used for domestic violence purposes, such as securing an order of protection. Other states have laws that expand FMLA to cover smaller employers, provide additional (unpaid) time off, or other provisions.

In addition, at least 17 cities have paid sick leave ordinances, including San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, and Philadelphia. There are campaigns in several other states, and proposed legislation in some, that would require employers to offer paid sick leave. Most of these ordinances address individual sick days rather than extended leave, often providing workers with one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked.

Examples of state family and medical leave laws include:

  • California - Eligible employees who have worked at the company for at least 30 days may receive 55 percent of their wages (up to a maximum of $987 per week) for up to six weeks
  • Connecticut - Eligible employees receive one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to five days total
  • Washington, D.C. - Eligible employees may accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 to 87 hours worked, depending on the size of employer
  • Oregon - Employees who have been on the job for at least 180 days and work an average of 25 hours per week are eligible for up to 14 days of unpaid leave; Oregon's statute applies to employers with 25 or more employees

Leave laws can be somewhat confusing, particularly when state laws or local ordinances come into play. Click on a link below to learn more or contact an employment lawyer in your area if you need legal help.