While many employers talk about maternity leave and recognize the rights of new mothers to take time off to spend with their babies, fathers also have the right to take time off from work to care for newly born infants, newly adopted children, new foster children, and injured children. Despite having this right, less than 22% of fathers take time off from work for these purposes. Some fathers might be unaware of their rights to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, eligible employees who work for covered employers can take up to 12 weeks off from work to bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child. Fathers can also take leave to care for a child’s serious medical condition or to care for their spouses when they are ill and require care. FMLA leave is unpaid, but your employer must continue your health care benefits while you take time under this law. Here is some information from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about the rights of fathers to take unpaid leave from work under the FMLA.
Which Employees Are Eligible Under the FMLA?
The FMLA covers slightly more than half of all workers in the U.S. To be eligible to take leave, you must work for a covered employer. The FMLA covers local, state, and federal employers, public schools, and private-sector employers with 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius of each other.
If you work for a covered employer, you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months before the date you request leave. During those 12 months, you must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours or roughly 25 hours per week.
What Are Qualifying Reasons for Leave?
Eligible employees working for covered employers can take unpaid leave for 12 weeks for qualifying reasons, including the following:
- To bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child
- To care for your child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition
- To deal with your own serious health condition
- To care for a family member who serves in the military and has a serious injury or illness
If your spouse or significant other is expecting a child, or your family is adopting a child, both of you can take leave under the FMLA as long as you meet the eligibility requirements and work for a covered employer. Both parents are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave when they are expanding their family. Mothers are also allowed to take leave when needed because of pregnancy-related health reasons. For example, an expectant mother might choose to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave right after her baby is born, and then the father might take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with the baby. If you want to take FMLA leave for a new child, you must do so within one year of when your baby was born, when you adopted a child, or when a foster child was placed in your home.
Fathers also have a right to take time off from work to care for their spouses when they are incapacitated because of childbirth or pregnancy. However, if you are not married to the child’s mother, you might not be able to take FMLA leave to care for her.
How Do You Take FMLA Leave?
If you want to take FMLA leave, you must notify your employer at least 30 days in advance or as soon as possible. You will need to provide enough information to your employer to allow it to determine whether or not you are eligible to take unpaid FMLA leave and if your reason qualifies. If your leave request is for medical reasons, you might be asked to provide a medical certification from a doctor of your medical condition or your family member’s medical condition.
Your employer is allowed to require you to use up any paid leave you have accumulated, including vacation days. Any paid leave that you take will not count towards the total FMLA leave. For example, if your employer requires you to use up one week of vacation time, you will still be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. However, in some cases, paid and unpaid FMLA leave might run at the same time. If your FMLA leave request is approved, your employer must keep your health care coverage in place during the entire leave period.
Returning to Your Job
FMLA leave is job-protected leave. This means that your employer must restore you to your former position when you return from taking leave under the FMLA. If your employer cannot keep your original position open while you are out on leave, you must be placed in a different job that is equivalent in terms and conditions, benefits, and pay to your old job.
Retaliation for Taking FMLA Leave
Employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers for exercising their rights. If your employer retaliates against you for taking unpaid FMLA leave for a qualifying reason, you can file a retaliation claim against your employer. Retaliation includes any type of adverse job action, including demotions, harassment, terminations, layoffs, and others.
Talk to the Employment Law Attorneys at Swartz Swidler
Being able to take time off from work to care for a new child or an ill spouse is of critical importance. If you work for a covered employer and are an eligible employee, you have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. If you have requested FMLA leave for a qualifying reason, and your employer has denied your request, you should speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Similarly, if your employer has retaliated against you for taking family leave, you should learn about your legal options. Contact Swartz Swidler today for a free consultation by calling (856) 685-7420.