Family and Medical Leaves
The Right to Take Family and Medical Leaves
The Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) is a federal employment law that gives many employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off per year due to:
- Their own serious health condition;
- The serious health condition of their spouse, son, daughter, or parent; or
- Their pregnancy, adoption, or placement of a child in foster care.
Similarly, the New Jersey Family Leave Act ("FLA") is a state statute that entitles covered employees to take up to 12 weeks every 24 months for the serious health condition of their child, husband, wife or domestic partner or due to the birth or adoption of their child.
Who is Covered?Generally, to be covered by the FMLA you need to have (1) worked for the employer for at least 12 months; (2) worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months; and (3) worked in a location that has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.
Similarly, the FLA applies to most employees who (1) worked for the employer for at least 12 months; (2) worked at least 1,000 hours for the employer during the previous 12 months; and (3) work for a company with at least 50 employees nationwide.
The Right to Return to Your Job
One of the primary protections offered by the FMLA and the FLA is that employees who take time off under them generally are entitled to return to their previous jobs or an equivalent job when they return to work at the end of their leaves. In other words, your company either has to hold your job open for you, or it has to find you a similar job in terms of the job duties, salary, benefits and office location.
Am I Entitled to Get Paid While I Am on a Family or Medical Leave?
The FMLA and the FLA do not require employers to pay employees who take a family or medical leave. However, disabled and pregnant employees in New York and New Jersey may be eligible for state disability insurance benefits, and qualified employees who take a family leave, maternity leave, or paternity leave in New Jersey are eligible for benefits under the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act. In addition, employees can use their accrued paid time off, such as vacation and sick time, during a protected leave. Likewise, some employers have policies of paying employees for a period while they are on a family or medical leave.
Protection Against Retaliation
Employees who take time off under the FMLA or the FLA generally are entitled to return to their previous job or an equivalent position when they return to work at the end of their leaves. Both of those employment laws also make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who request time off under them, such as by firing, demoting, or harassing them.
Time Off As an Accommodation For a Disability
In addition to taking a medical leave under the FMLA and that FLA, in both New Jersey and New York employees may be entitled to take time off as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Individuals who are eligible to take an FMLA leave often can extend their time off in this way. Similarly, employees who are not covered by the FMLA can often take medical leaves as a reasonable accommodation.
For more information about your rights under the FMLA, please see our four-part series of Frequently Asked Questions About the FMLA: