If you have ever talked about family leave policies with friends who live in Europe, or even just across the border in Canada, you have probably noticed how little paid family leave, if any, American employees get. Meanwhile, most of the people you know in Minneapolis went back to work when their children were three months old, if not younger, because they could not afford to lose out on any more income. State laws in Minnesota offer employees more flexibility when it comes to missing work because of family caregiving responsibilities than federal laws do. How much time off from your work you can get depends on the size of the company where you work and on your reasons for taking the leave. The Minneapolis FMLA lawyers at HKM Attorneys LLC can help you understand and exercise your rights if you need to take a leave of absence from work for health reasons or because of family caregiving responsibilities.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that protects workers from unlawful termination of employment if they must up to 12 weeks of work to attend to their own health or to the care of a family member. Notably, FMLA requires employers to provide unpaid leave; it does not require employers to pay the workers while they are on family leave, only to allow them to return to their same jobs at their same rate of pay when they return. Some employers offer paid family leave or paid medical leave, but it is up to the employer’s discretion to decide how much, if anything, to pay workers who are on leave for medical or family caregiving reasons.
Furthermore, not every employee is covered by FMLA. These are the eligibility requirements for employees to take FMLA leave:
- The employee must have been employed continuously by the company for at least one year before the beginning of the leave period
- The employee must have worked 1,250 hours or more in the 365 days leading up to the beginning of the leave period
- The company must have at least 50 employees whose work locations are within 75 miles of the FMLA leave requesting employee’s work location
- Employees may request FMLA leave for the following reasons:
- The employee’s own health condition, including high-risk pregnancy
- A health condition of a close family member of the employee (the employee’s spouse, parent, or child)
- The birth or adoption of a child
- Family responsibilities related to qualifying events in the military service of the employee’s spouse, parent, or child
If you will need to miss more than 12 weeks because of FMLA-eligible circumstances, an employment lawyer can help you navigate the necessary conversations with your employer about the situation.
The only instance where FMLA gives you more than 12 weeks of family leave is if your parent, spouse, or child in the military gets injured while on active duty. In this case, FMLA provides for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave.
Minnesota State Laws About Family Leave
In addition to the federal FMLA provisions, Minnesota law provides for several other ways for employees to keep their jobs after taking a leave of absence for medical or family-related reasons:
- If the company has 21 employees or more, it must allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for prenatal care.
- Employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of family leave if they have worked at least half-time for the year before the beginning of the leave during the year leading up to the leave period. This is a slightly lower threshold than the federal requirement of 1,250 in a year.
- Employees may take one day per calendar year for the send-off ceremony or homecoming ceremony of a family member in the military.
- Employees may take up to 10 days of leave after a family member is killed while on active duty in the military.
- If the company has two employees or more, it must provide 16 hours of unpaid leave per year for employees to attend their children’s school-related events. If the company has at least 20 employees, it must provide each employee with 40 hours of leave for these purposes.
Employer-Employee Disputes Over Paid Family and Medical Leave
Neither federal law nor state law requires employers to provide their employees with vacation pay or paid medical leave. Many companies offer these benefits to their employees, though. Employment contracts specify how many days per year of medical leave an employee may take. Some companies offer parental leave as a separate category, and the length of the paid parental leave period also varies from one company to another.
Disputes sometimes arise when employers refuse to allow employees to take the paid time off to which they are entitled. Likewise, your employer may keep their word about letting you take paid time off but then may retaliate against you in other ways. For example, the employer may give you negative performance reviews even though your job performance has not changed, or your supervisor might make disrespectful comments about your perceived lack of commitment to your job. Depending on the details, it could be a case of discrimination or of breach of contract. An employment lawyer can help you choose the best strategy for resolving disputes with your employer over paid leave.
Contact a Minneapolis Family and Medical Leave Attorney
While the job security that federal and state laws ensure for employees who take leaves of absence from work for medical or family caregiving reasons is modest, employers sometimes begrudge employees even those few unpaid weeks of leave that the law guarantees. If your employer gives you an unmanageable workload after you come back from maternity leave, it could be an unavoidable consequence of the company being understaffed, or it could be a case of family status discrimination. Contact the Minneapolis family and medical leave lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.