Under What Circumstances Can You Apply For Family Leave?

Pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an eligible employee working for a covered employer is entitled to unpaid leave in specified situations, including the birth of a child and to care for the newborn and following placement of a child for adoption or foster care.

An employee can also request family leave if the employee has a serious health condition or is needed to care for a child, spouse, parent, or other qualifying family member who has a serious health condition, rendering the employee or family unable to care for his or her own basic needs. For example, an employee may request leave:

• to provide care for a qualifying family member who is undergoing treatment for a serious health condition such as cancer or heart attack, or who requires care following surgery;
• to provide transportation to and from medical appointments for a qualifying family member;
• to provide psychological comfort and reassurance to a qualifying family member who has a serious health condition;
• to provide respite or substitute care for others who are caring for the employee’s parent, spouse, or child who has a serious health condition;
• to arrange nursing home admission for a parent, spouse, or child.
• for self-care when the employee has a serious health condition causing the employee to be unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
• to address an urgent need caused when a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.

An employee may be entitled to take intermittent leave under the FMLA in certain situations, such as attending repeated scheduled medical procedures and appointments or follow-up treatments. Intermittent leave can be used in blocks of time such as to undergo scheduled cancer treatments.

What benefits and protections does the FMLA provide?

The FMLA is a federal law that requires employers that are covered by the law to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year. Importantly, the employer usually must continue group health insurance coverage at the same rate paid prior to leave.

The FMLA’s job protection provision requires an employer to restore an employee who returns from family leave to the same position – or an equivalent position in terms of pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment.

In addition, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who requests or uses family leave. An employer cannot reduce an employee’s hours, demote the employee or fire the employee or take any other adverse action because the employee requests or takes family leave.

Other laws that impact family leave

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Workers’ Compensation laws may also protect an employee who has a serious medical condition requiring leave.

When an employee requests FMLA leave for self-care for a serious medical condition, in certain circumstances the protections of the ADA may entitle the employee to additional leave, or a reasonable accommodation upon return to work.

Similarly, a workers’ compensation injury may qualify as a serious health condition under the FMLA.
State family and medical leave laws may provide more protection and benefits than the FMLA provides in terms of leave and benefits.

For example, currently five states – including New Jersey – have enacted laws that provide paid family leave. The New Jersey Family Leave Act provides 12 weeks of paid leave for eligible employees to care for qualifying family members given 24-month period. Unlike the federal FMLA, however, the New Jersey law does not allow an employee to take leave for his or her own medical condition.

Pennsylvania does not offer paid family leave at this time.

If you have questions about family leave, or your employer has denied your request to take family leave, you should speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Murphy Law Group focuses exclusively on employment law and represents employees in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.