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What is the Family and Medical Leave Act, and who does it cover?

by | Apr 14, 2021 | Employment Law

Federal lawmakers enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993. It protects the rights and jobs of workers who need medical leave for themselves or to care for their loved ones.

While many Hawaiian employers must abide by this law, others do not. Having a firm understanding as to whether your employer must abide by this law may impact whether you have a right to pursue any legal action against them should they deny you leave or terminate you for having taken it.

What is the FMLA?

Any worker entitled to FMLA leave can generally take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to tend to either their own or a close loved one’s medical concerns without fear of losing their job. FMLA requires employers to reinstate you to the same or equivalent role once you wrap up your leave.

Virtually any employer that has 50 employees within 75 miles from a company headquarters must abide by FMLA. Employees must meet specific requirements for their employers to qualify for such leave, however. Your employment must have lasted at least 12 months at the time you request FMLA. Anyone requesting such leave must also have worked at least 1,250 during that time frame to be eligible for FMLA.

What are valid reasons for which you can take FMLA?

There are various reasons you might be able to take FMLA leave. You may be able to do so:

  • As you prepare for your child’s birth
  • To care for your newborn
  • When you take on a new foster child placement
  • Upon adopting a child
  • If you, your child, spouse or parent are suffering from serious health conditions
  • When called up for active duty in the military

Employees are generally only able to take FMLA leave once within any one 12-month period.

What to do if your employer denied your FMLA leave request

Many employers aren’t well-informed about their legal obligations and will deny employees their FMLA benefits. Others may permit their employees to go on leave yet demote or fire them once they return to work. You may have a valid case against your employer for violating your rights if this happened to you.