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Family Leave Rights in the U.S.

Life happens, and it’s important for employees to know their rights before they need to utilize them. The U.S. has one of the scantiest set of employee leave rights in the world, but employees do enjoy a set of guarantees under federal and state laws. While the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is the only federal protection for employees, some states, most notably California, have instituted mandatory family leave benefits. If you need to know more about family leave rights, this article addresses some of the ins and outs of in this article.

How Does FMLA Work?

This act provides eligible employees with up to twelve weeks of leave. Employers may not give away an employee’s job during those twelve weeks, and employees are free to use the time in one burst, or in parts divided over a period of time. If you’re wondering whether FMLA is paid, the answer is no. Family leave in the U.S. is almost always unpaid. Unfortunately, no federal law requires paid maternity leave, either. Your employer may choose to cover partial pay during family or medical leave, but it depends entirely on their decision. However, employers must continue to provide medical benefits during family or medical leave.

FMLA Eligibility

Learn if you qualify and how to apply for FMLA in advance, especially if you’re planning a family, or expect major medical procedures in the coming months. Small business employees should be especially vigilant. FMLA policy does not cover businesses with fifty or fewer employees. Only those employed for twelve months or more qualify for family and medical leave.

Carefully consider the purpose of your leave, as well. The FMLA was initially designed as a maternity and paternity leave law. FMLA guidelines only allow leave for the birth and care of a newborn, new adoption or foster care placements, care for a seriously ill member of the employee’s immediate family, or serious illness on the part of the employee.

California Family Rights Act

California paid family leave gives employees additional rights and puts a greater burden on employers. The most important is the fact that the CFRA mandates paid family leave in California. Like the FMLA, the CFRA has some restrictions. Only employees of businesses with fifty or more employees qualify, and they must work for twelve months at full time capacity before they come under the protection of the California maternity leave laws.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act

Pregnant women may qualify for additional maternity leave in California. Under the FEHA, women dealing with pregnancy, childbirth, or any related condition qualify for four additional months of leave. This regulation applies to any business with five or more employees, making it the easiest form of leave for small business employees to apply for. Unlike the FMLA or CFRA, the FEHA does not require women to work at a particular location for twelve months, or for a certain number of hours before qualifying.

Know Your Rights

Families considering adoption, caring for seriously ill relatives, or anyone expecting a baby needs to examine maternity leave rights in their state. An additional week to bond with a new child has infinite value, and filling out FMLA forms in advance assures you’re ready when the time comes. The FMLA lays the groundwork, and state laws like the CFRA and FEHA provide additional benefits.

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