Taking Time Off to Care for Your Child: FMLA
Parents of children with serious medical issues and/or disabilities often need to take time off from work or have a flexible work schedule to provide care for their children. Parents may fear that this need makes them vulnerable to job discrimination or job loss. There are federal and state laws that can provide protections to parent workers, and it is important to know what these laws are and to understand which employees and employers are covered by them.
Federal Family Medical and Leave Act
The Family Medical and Leave Act known as FMLA became law in 1993. FMLA is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specified family and medical reasons without jeopardizing their job. Note that employers with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile area are not bound by FLMA. Additionally, an employee must have worked for at least 12 months to become eligible for FMLA. To find out if you are covered by FMLA check out the following sites.
State Family and Medical Leave laws
The federal FMLA was designed to provide the minimum level of protection for employees. Some states have laws that go beyond the federal FMLA. Ohio does not currently have a state FMLA, so Ohio parents are governed by the federal FMLA or their employer’s specific policy, whichever is more generous. States that have state FMLA laws tend to provide protections for people who work at smaller employers. Some states mandate that the leave be partially paid. To understand more about state leave policies, visit these sites.
How to apply for FMLA
Most employers will have clearly documented procedures for employees to follow when requesting FMLA. Generally, the FMLA requires that employees give their employer reasonable notice that they intend to take leave. Employers may request that the employee provide a doctor’s certificate describing the problem. To officially request FMLA, you need to complete FMLA form WH-380-F which can be obtained from the Department of Labor. For instructions on how to complete form WH-380-F see instructions. Completed forms are submitted directly to the employer.
What to do if your FMLA rights are violated
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the federal FMLA. If you suspect that your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with WHD or you may file a private lawsuit against your employer. To understand more about filing complaints you can contact WHD at complaints.
This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.
Lead researcher/author: Helen Livingston Rapp, Esq., RedTreehouse.org Legal Intern