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How the Family and Medical Leave Act affects you

Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, some employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. This time off also protects their job, so they can return to it when their time is over. During the time off, employers must maintain the worker's health benefits, too, so they won't miss out on those essential benefits if they are off for medical purposes.

The FMLA has been in place since August 1993. What's most important to understand is how you become eligible for the leave you want to take. First, you must work for a covered employer. Any public agency, state, local, or federal employer, educational institute (school), or private sector employer with 50 or more employees for at least 20 week out of the year is required to abide by the FMLA.

Employees are eligible for this leave in a variety of circumstances, but they will need to have worked for their employer for at least 12 months. During that time, the employees should have worked at least 1,250 hours before the FMLA leave was requested. Covered employers must give employees who meet the legal requirements up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave on request.

Some good reasons for making this request include the birth of a son or daughter, the placement of an adoptive or foster child, serious medical conditions, or to care for immediate family members who have serious health issues.

When you're ready to apply for your time off and meet the qualifications, your employer must allow it. If your FMLA time is denied, your attorney may be able to help you seek a resolution.

Source: United States Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division, "The Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed June 24, 2016

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