The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows workers to take unpaid time off as medical leave for themselves, or as family leave if the worker needs to care for certain family members, or for the birth or adoption of a child. If you are covered by the FMLA, you can get up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period, and you may be entitled to additional medical leave beyond 12 weeks if your continued absence from work is due to a disability.
Your employer cannot fire you, demote you, or take any other adverse action toward you in retaliation for taking medical leave. Adverse actions include taking away your health insurance and other benefits, or transferring you to a different position. Any employer that retaliates against an employee for taking unpaid medical leave may be liable for violating the FMLA.
But the FMLA does not cover every worker. Small employers generally are not subject to the FMLA, and many part-time employees and relatively new employees aren’t covered. For the FMLA to apply to your employer, your employer must either be a public agency, or a private company or organization employing 50 or more workers within 75 miles of the place of employment. For the FMLA to apply to you, you must have worked for your current employer for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer within the last year.
Additionally Massachusetts now has a Paid Family and Medical leave (“PFML”) that allows many Massachusetts employees to take PAID time off to deal with their own serious health conditions, the serious health condition of certain family members, and in the case of the birth, adoption or placement of a child. If you qualify for and take Mass PFML you will be paid by the state, not by your employer, and it will be at a rate lower than your regular rate of pay. You must apply through the state but also must inform your employer.
Requesting and obtaining leave under the FMLA and/or PFML is complicated and you have to follow a series of steps in the right order and timeframes. We can help you figure out if you’re entitled to FMLA and/or PFML leave (or another type of leave such as paid or unpaid family leave under Massachusetts state laws or your employer’s own policies) and will work with you and your employer to secure the leave that you need. Or, if needed, we will help hold your employer accountable if they improperly denied your FMLA or PFML leave request or if they retaliated against you for requesting or taking leave.