Most parents of young children are painfully aware that the United States does not have legally mandated paid parental leave for the parents of new babies. Some states require paid leave for the employee’s own medical needs or to care for a family member, including a new baby, but Texas does not. Therefore, employers who offer paid sick leave or paid family caregiving leave have a clear advantage over employers that do not when it comes to employee retention. Meanwhile, federal law gives employees the right to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks because of the employee’s health condition or to provide care for a close family member. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their right to take an FMLA leave; this means that your employer must allow you to return to your job after your FMLA leave ends. If you need to request FMLA leave and want to make sure that you are eligible, or if your employer refused to grant your request for FMLA leave, the Houston Family Medical Leave Act lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you exercise your right to take a leave of absence from work to attend to your own health or that of a close family member.
In Which Situations Can You Take an FMLA Leave?
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months when the leave of absence begins. You must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the year leading up to your FMLA leave. The employer must have at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius. This means that many small businesses are not required to provide FMLA leave, and if you take a medical leave or family leave from your job at a small business, your employer is not required to let you return to your job after the leave of absence, as a larger employer would be. It also means that most part-time employees are not eligible for FMLA leave, even if they previously worked full-time for the same employer.
FMLA entitles employees to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave or family leave per year, but the time off does not have to be consecutive. If the situation requires it, you can even use FMLA leave to take half days off of work on non-consecutive days to attend doctor’s appointments and treatment sessions.
Pursuant to FMLA, you can take a leave of absence due to any serious health condition of yours, including but not limited to traumatic injuries, cancer, autoimmune disease, COVID, or mental illness. If your injury resulted from a work accident or a legally recognized occupational disease associated with your occupation, you should file a worker’s compensation claim instead of requesting an FMLA leave. Filing worker’s compensation claims and taking FMLA leave are both legally protected activities, which means that your employer cannot fire you or otherwise punish you for doing them.
You can also request an FMLA leave because of caregiving obligations for a close family member of yours. Eligible family members include parents, spouses, sons, and daughters. You can also use FMLA leave to care for a child who is a new addition to your family, whether through birth, adoption, or foster care placement. In other words, FMLA leave still applies if your newly adopted or newly fostered child is beyond the age of infancy.
Family Caregiving Leave for Family Members of Injured Servicemembers
When the purpose of the FMLA leave is to provide care for a member of the Armed Forces who suffered a serious injury or illness while on active duty, you can take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave. To be eligible for this leave, you must be the legal “next of kin” of the injured servicemember; in other words, you must be the servicemember’s parent, spouse, or child.
Can Pregnant Women Start Their FMLA Leave Before the Baby is Born?
Time passes quickly during the first year of your child’s life; the first 12 weeks are practically a blur, even if you are fortunate enough to have a baby who falls asleep easily and who easily gets the hang of feeding. The time when you need FMLA leave the most is when your baby is a newborn, but the final weeks of pregnancy are no picnic, either. Does FMLA protect pregnant women whose doctors have told them to stop working several weeks before the baby is born because of pregnancy complications?
Yes, you can use FMLA leave during pregnancy, but it is not your best option. If possible, you should save the FMLA leave for after the baby is born. Before the baby’s birth, you can rely on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employment laws recognize pregnancy as a temporary disability, and pregnant women have the right to request reasonable accommodations from their employers. The accommodations you need are unique to you, and the accommodations that your employer is able to provide are unique to your employer. Depending on your job duties, your employer may allow you to work from home if your doctor has ordered you to stay on bedrest at home. If you are working in a customer service position, your employer may allow you to sit down at work when you would otherwise be required to stand. Agreeing on reasonable accommodations often involves negotiation. Your employer does not have the right to take adverse action against you for requesting accommodation, even if your employer is not able to provide the exact accommodation that you request.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Family and Medical Leave
The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, can help you request a leave of absence from work because of your own medical needs or to care for a family member. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.