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Time Off from Work

Welcome to FindLaw's section covering time off from work. Most people are pleased to have a job and a means for providing for their family, but every so often a worker needs time off – to take care of their sick family members, attend funerals, vote, or to recover from their own illnesses. Here you can find resources and information relating to when and how laws work to provide employees with time off from work, as well as whether such time off is paid or unpaid. Please select from the links below to get started.

Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the federal law that protects employees seeking an extended leave of absence to handle certain family or medical needs. States frequently have their own laws that provide similar protections or even provide additional coverage above that required under the FMLA. Employers that are government agencies and private businesses that relate to interstate commerce are subject to the FMLA, as are companies that have fifty or more employees in twenty or more weeks over the prior calendar year.

Covered employees must have worked at least twelve months and for at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately preceding their need for leave. Their worksite must be within the U.S. or a U.S. territory and the employer must have at least fifty employees within 75 miles. If the aforementioned qualifications are met an employee may take leave for a birth or adoption, deal with a medical condition, or care for an immediate relative that has a serious health condition.

Maternity Leave

The FMLA also provides for maternity leave, which refers to time off from work prior to and following the birth of a child. Under the Act a covered employee may take a total of 12 weeks of leave within a 12 month time period. However, the law does not require the employer to pay a salary during this period, though the employee may use accrued vacation time and paid time off to receive wages during the leave.

Another potential source of income for those on maternity leave are short term disability benefits. Short term disability benefits may be available through private, employer, or state sponsored programs. The term of coverage and other details vary greatly, however.

Time Off for Voting and Jury Duty

When an employee wants to take a leave of absence to fulfill a civic duty, to vote or serve on a jury, there are frequently state laws that protect the employee's right to do so. Nearly every state has laws prohibiting an employer from disciplining or firing an employee who takes time off to vote. However, rules about this vary considerably and may require proof you actually voted, or evidence that you could not vote before or after work. Some states require that you give advance notice of your intended absence.

It is harder to get time off for jury duty. Although few employers will object, issues can arise where an employee is chosen to sit on a trial for an extended period of time. Many states have laws that prevent employers from disciplining or firing you for serving on a jury, though the state laws should be examined to ensure compliance with local rules. Time off for jury duty is usually unpaid, though some states require your employer to pay for leave or permit an employee to use their accrued paid leave when called to jury.

Learn About Time Off from Work