Understanding the FMLA

People who work in Texas should know what type of leave they are allowed to take from their jobs to care for personal or family situations.

Even the most dedicated employee may find themselves needing to prioritize their personal lives over their professional lives. Whether someone has received a serious medical diagnosis for themselves that necessitates time away from work for treatment or a new baby is born, the number of situations that may cause someone to seek leave from a job is many.

However, while people may want to take time off of work for personal situations, they may also be concerned about protecting their jobs and their future abilities to earn a living. This is precisely why the Family and Medical Leave Act was created.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the FMLA is a piece of federal legislations that grants employees the right to take a certain amount of time off of their jobs for qualifying family or medical purposes. The leave granted by this law is unpaid.

A second and very important part of the Family and Medical Leave Act is that employers are required to retain workers' jobs while they are on leave. This allows people the chance to take leave and know they will be able to return to work. Additionally, health care benefits must be maintained and by employers during leave periods.

Are all employers covered by the FMLA?

In the public sector, employees who work for public school systems as well as any municipal, state and federal government group are eligible for leave under the FMLA.

In the private sector, only some employers must grant leave under the FMLA. Additionally, employees must meet some criteria to be eligible for this leave. First, a company must have more than 49 employees that have worked a minimum of 20 weeks in the prior year to be required to grant leave under the FMLA. In these companies, the employees who have worked at least 12 months and logged at least 1,250 hours at their jobs over those 12 months may take FMLA leave.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, businesses not covered by the FMLA are not required to provide any form of leave either paid or unpaid to their employees. That said, many companies choose to offer leave to their workers and may have documented policies regarding this. If this is the case, such leave may be enforceable per the Texas Payday Law.

For what reasons may people take leave?

If injured or ill, an employee may take leave to seek treatment and recover. Additionally, providing care for an immediate family member who is ill or injured may also be a reason for leave. A birth, adoption or placement of a foster child may allow both mothers and fathers the right to take FMLA leave to care for the baby or child.

A maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year is allowed. The 12 weeks may be taken at one time or may be taken in non-consecutive chunks that add up to a total of 12 weeks. Leave time may be extended to 26 weeks if the care is provided to a member of the U.S. military.

How can I ensure my FMLA rights are protected?

Anyone in Texas who has questions about the Family and Medical Leave Act and protecting their rights should seek help from an attorney. The FMLA is a law and there may be many legal nuances involved in ensuring the right steps are taken and that a person receives the leave they deserve.