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You have rights under the FMLA to care for a sick family member

When you were young your family took care of you. Now, as an adult, you find that the roles had switched. Someone in your family needs you to help care for them. If you have the physical and financial ability to do so, you may want to fill that need for your family member.

Unfortunately, whether they live in another city or simply require intensive, ongoing care, it is likely that you cannot balance an outside job with full-time caregiving for a loved one struggling after an injury or during a serious illness.

Whether you don't have adequate vacation time to cover how long you would be gone or you simply don't want to use your paid leave for this task, you should take some time to educate yourself about your rights to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FMLA protects your rights as a worker

Some employers will only be as compassionate as the law literally requires them to be. Employers may begrudge the workers time off, even if it is for a personal medical issue or a desire to care for an ailing loved one.

However, your family may not have the resources to pay for a lengthy hospital stay or for in-home nursing care. Medicare may not cover all those expenses, and your loved one may not qualify for Medicaid. There are similar hiccups people often experience with private insurance during protracted illnesses.

Both from a standard of care perspective and an expense perspective, providing care for your loved one may be the best option. The FMLA helps ensure that you have the right to provide that care and still return to your job. Under the FMLA, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year. There are certain qualifications that you have to meet, however.

How to know if you qualify for FMLA leave

The qualifications to take leave under the FMLA are relatively straightforward. The individual you intend to provide care for must be either your spouse or a direct family member. Parents, as well as children, typically count. Cousins or close friends, will not.

You will also need to have worked at the same company for at least 52 weeks, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months. Additionally, your employer must have at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.

If your work situation meets those requirements, request that your employer grant you leave under the FMLA. If they deny your request, you have the right to take legal action to assert your rights as an employee.

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