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Knowing your rights to medical leave

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Medical leave is an issue that has seen huge awareness growth recently. As vocal groups push for more universal access to maternity leave, the general consensus that American workers need to be protected has found a growing narrative. As things currently stand, medical leave is a complicated issue, where the law treats varying employers differently and every state has a say. At the very least, there is a national standard, but it has a limited scope. Here are some of the basics you should learn about your rights regarding medical leave.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

When it comes to standard, nation-wide rights, the FMLA is the source of your protection. The law has specific guidelines, but when applicable it serves as the baseline for medical leave. Medical absences fall under the protection of the FMLA when an employer has at least 50 employees. Further restrictions are as follows:

  • Minimum employment. You must work for the employer for a total of 12 months or more, but that time does not have to be consecutive. This means the FMLA does protect seasonal and temporary employees. Furthermore, you must work a minimum of 1250 hours during those twelve months. This is the same as an average of 25 hours a week or more.
  • Proximity to employment. Another requirement for FMLA protection is that you must work within 75 miles of a worksite or worksites that employ at least 50 people. Some companies may have employees spread out enough that FMLA may not apply.

If your case is covered by the FMLA, then it’s important to understand what protections are available for employees. The law protects you in a few key ways. First, your employer is obligated to maintain your health insurance for the duration of your leave. Second, they must honor any medical leave that requires you or a family member to stay overnight in a healthcare facility. Employers must also honor leave that keeps you or a family member incapacitated for more than three days, provided the condition requires at least two treatments in a year. Finally, FMLA covers maternity and paternity leave. Parents are entitled to leave that promotes bonding with a newborn child (leave for the primary caregiver) or leave that is necessary to facilitate an adoption. The leave must be taken within the first year of a child’s birth, and it must be a continuous block of time.

What if the FMLA does not apply?

The FMLA covers many Americans, but there are still plenty who work for smaller employers. In these cases, each state has its own set of parameters. These cases can easily become very convoluted. One clear example is with the recent lawsuit against Lowe’s. Many of their stores are not covered by FMLA and are subject instead to local and state laws, which do not offer the same protections.

Ultimately, if you want a better understanding of your rights to medical leave, contact an experienced employment law attorney. At The Law Firm of Jacobson & Rooks, LLC our attorneys can explain your rights to which you are legally entitled and can help your pursue a claim if those rights have been violated.