The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees with an opportunity to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12 month period. This type of leave is guaranteed by law, meaning that employers may not put conditions on it or merge it with other forms of paid (or unpaid) leave that an employer may offer.

With FMLA leave, an employer also cannot punish an employee for taking such leave, even at inopportune times. As long as the employee is taking the leave for family or medical reasons, the employee’s status with the company should not change; meaning that the employee should not be demoted, suspended or otherwise terminated while taking FMLA leave. 

FMLA applies to all state, federal and local government employers, as well as private sector employers with more than 50 employees.

Generally speaking, an employee seeking FMLA leave should give at least 30 days notice before taking such leave. However, not all instances all for such advance notice. When this occurs, an employee should provide as much information as practicable so that the employer can determine whether such leave is allowed under FMLA. After all, not all leave is protected.

If an employer, after being duly notified of such leave refuses to honor it and takes action against an employee, the affected employee may seek legal remedies that may include reinstatement of employment, back pay, as well as bonuses and commissions that the employee would have been entitled to but for the employer’s decision.

If you have additional questions about FMLA leave, an experienced employment law attorney can help.