Category: FMLA

You shouldn’t have to worry about your job if you or someone you love gets really sick. Fortunately, there’s a federal law that protects you. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your employer is prohibited from firing you or taking adverse employment action against you if you need to take time away from work to tend to a serious illness.

In fact, your employer has to keep your position – or an equivalent position within the company – reserved for you while you take time off under the FMLA. However, don’t expect to receive a paycheck for the days you miss. The FMLA only requires your employer to hold your job; it doesn’t require your employer to provide paid leave.

Here’s what you need to know.

Who Does the FMLA Cover?

Not everyone is covered by the FMLA. Certain criteria – concerning you as an employee and your employer – must be satisfied before the FMLA kicks in.

You’re protected under the FMLA if:

  • You’ve been employed with your company for at least 12 months
  • You’ve worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the year leading up to your FMLA leave, and
  • Your employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

You can take time off from work to tend to an illness without having to worry about your job if you’ve checked off each of these boxes.

When Can I Take Time Off From Work Under the FMLA?

If you’re an eligible employee, you are guaranteed 12 weeks of protected leave every 12 months. Those 12 weeks don’t have to be taken consecutively. You can take a few days here and a few days there, as needed, to tend to your illness. 

When Is Leave Protected Under the FMLA?

The FMLA exists to protect your job when you (or someone you love) is dealing with a serious health issue or medically-related health event. This can include:

  • Preparing for the birth or adoption of a child
  • Taking care of a newborn or newly adopted child
  • Tending to your own serious health condition, and
  • Taking care of a child, parent, or spouse who is afflicted with a serious health condition.

The FMLA also protects your job if you or your spouse are called to active duty in the military. Your job will be protected for at least 12 weeks if you need time to transition.

Your Employer May Require a Doctor’s Note

It’s true. In order to prevent abuse of the FMLA, employers can require you to provide a doctor’s note to back up your claim that you’ve got a serious health issue and need to take some time away from work. However, there are limits to how often and when your employer can make these requests.

Your employer can only ask for a doctor’s note once every 30 days. If you only take a few days off here and there to go to doctor’s appointments or seem medical treatment, your employer may not even need a note, at all. In these situations, the note is likely only to excuse your absence from work under the company’s attendance policy. 

Your Employer Can’t Ask Personal Questions About Your Health Condition

Your employer doesn’t have to know the finer details of your health struggles or medical condition. In fact, they’re not allowed to ask or pry. Under the FMLA, your job should be protected as long as you are an eligible employee and you’ve given your employer a doctor’s note (if requested).

Asking questions or making comments that make you uncomfortable could run afoul of state or federal anti-discrimination laws. You have the right to take time away from work to tend to your health issue privately. It’s not your boss’s business to know the intimate and personal details of your struggles.