Working full-time and caring for young children is a balancing act that millions of Americans handle. Many employers pressure their employees to return to the workplace as soon as possible after the birth of a new baby, and the lack of paid parental leave policies on a national level means that economic necessity sends new mothers back to the workplace when their babies are only a few weeks old. Other caregiving responsibilities, such as caring for elderly parents or helping your children adjust to your spouse’s most recent military assignment, are equally important and require just as much of a time commitment. Although federal policies about paid leave for workers attending to family caregiving responsibilities have a long way to go before they can match the family leave benefits available to workers in most other high income countries, employees in New York have it better than employees in most other states. Even though federal law requires your employer to allow you to take unpaid leave for family caregiving reasons, and New York law entitles you to paid leave, you may still encounter pushback from your employer when you request a leave of absence. The New York City Family Medical Leave Act lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you exercise your right to care for your own health and for the needs of your close family members.
Federal and New York State Laws About Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives employees the right to take an unpaid leave of absence from work because of the employee’s own health condition, to take care of a close family member who is ill, or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. FMLA leave can last for up to 12 weeks, and you become eligible for it once you have worked at your job for a year. Requesting FMLA leave is a protected activity, which means that your employer cannot fire you or otherwise take an adverse action against you in response to your request for it.
In 2016, a law went into effect instituting Paid Family Leave (PFL) in the state of New York. It is one of the country’s most robust family leave programs, entitling families to receive a percentage of their salaries while on leave to care for sick family members or for new additions to their families. PFL can give you a leave of absence from work that lasts for up to 12 weeks. In 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill that expanded PFL to include siblings among the eligible family members for whose care workers could use PFL. In addition to providing a portion of the worker’s pay, PFL continues the worker’s employer-provided health insurance benefits and protects the worker from retaliation from their employer. New York law allows workers to take FMLA leave and PFL simultaneously or one after the other, but there are some restrictions. To make sure that you are within your rights, contact a New York City employment lawyer.
Paid Family Leave for Biological Parents of Newborn Babies in NYC
One of the situations where New York employees can use PFL is if you or your spouse or partner has given birth to a baby in the past 12 months. If both parents work for the same employer, you may take PFL at the same time, or you may take it at different times during your baby’s first year of life. During the PFL leave, you are entitled to receive 67% of your usual pay, up to a certain cap.
PFL leave for bonding with a newborn baby may not begin before the baby’s birth. If you need to take a leave of absence from work before your baby’s birth because your obstetrician has advised you to limit your activities, you may request a short-term disability leave.
Paid Family Leave for Adoptive Parents and Foster Parents in New York City
Adoptive parents and foster parents also have the right to receive 67% of their pay during a family leave that lasts up to 12 weeks. If you are in the process of adopting or fostering a child, then your PFL can begin before you bring your child home, especially if you need to travel or attend court hearings to complete the adoption or the foster placement. You can take the FPL for adoption or fostering any time in the first year that the child is with you. Couples who work for the same employer and adopt or foster a child together can take the FPL at the same time or at different times.
What Can Go Wrong With Family and Medical Leave?
Taking a leave of absence from work for medical reasons or because of family caregiving obligations is your legal right, and it is against the law for your employer to punish you for it. If your employer takes an adverse action against you after you request and take PFL or FMLA leave, it is employer retaliation, which is against the law. Examples of adverse actions include unfairly negative performance reviews, demotion, denial of raises and promotions, and termination of employment, among others.
If you take an FMLA leave because of a medical condition of yours and you do not feel ready to return to work or able to perform your usual job duties, then you should talk to your employer about making reasonable accommodations for a disability, or perhaps take a short-term disability leave. Negotiating about reasonable accommodations or extended leave can be intimidating, but the New York City employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you with every stage of the process.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Family and Medical Leave in New York City
The employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you resolve disputes with your employer about family and medical leave. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.
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