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The Family Medical Leave Act, more commonly known as the FMLA, was signed into law 20 years ago today. Can the law's provisions work for you?
President Bill Clinton signed the FMLA into law on February 5, 1993. It officially went into effect in August of that year, and many Americans who need time off from work have reaped the benefits ever since.
As the FMLA marks its 20th anniversary, here are 10 ways the FMLA can potentially pay off for employees:
- You can get unpaid time off. The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work. But there are many factors that can affect an employee's eligibility.
- The leave can be for health reasons or family reasons. The leave must be for the care of oneself (sick leave) or for the care of a family member (family leave). But there are limits to both.
- Serious health conditions are covered. These can include any illnesses or conditions that require hospitalization, as well as illnesses or conditions that require multiple or continuing treatments.
- You can take leave after childbirth or adoption. Yes, FMLA leave can be taken as part of your maternity or paternity leave. In fact, many men take FMLA leave to spend a few precious weeks with their new child.
- You can care for a parent or spouse. The FMLA doesn't only apply to the care of a child. It also applies to the care of a spouse or a parent with a serious medical condition.
- The FMLA applies to foster kids, too. The law doesn't only apply to one's biological children. It also applies to adopted children and foster children.
- Your job is safe during your FMLA leave. This is arguably the most important part of the law: You are entitled to be restored to your previous job, or to an equivalent position, once you return.
- Your benefits are safe too. Under this law, employers must continue to provide benefits like health insurance during a worker's FMLA leave.
- Your employer must provide notice about the FMLA. Employers must provide several forms of notice to workers, including a general posted notice for all employees and a more specific notice for an employee who wishes to take an FMLA leave of absence.
- You may have to take legal action to stand up for your rights. The FMLA has been around for two decades now, but it's still a common source of confusion in many employment disputes. If you feel your rights under the FMLA have been violated, you may want to consult a local employment-rights attorney to figure out the best way to proceed.
To learn more about the FMLA and how to make it work for you, check out FindLaw's Family and Medical Leave section and download our free Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act, which you can print out and share with family, friends, and coworkers.