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Nine key facts you need to know about FMLA

You've probably heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) many times. You probably also know that it allows employees to take unpaid time off work for specific family and medical reasons. But do you really understand the key details and what it means for you as a California employee?

Here are some of the most important points you need to know about this law, as well as a few facts about FMLA that may surprise you:

  1. It covers close family members. While you have the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for your own serious health condition, you can also use this leave to care for a seriously ill parent, child or spouse.
  2. It covers adoptions and foster care as well as births. You can take 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to bond with any new child, including a newly adopted baby or an older foster child who has been placed with your family.
  3. It protects your right to return to work. Your employer must allow you to either return to your old job after the FMLA leave or provide you with an equivalent position. To count as an equivalent position, a new job must provide the same general work schedule, involve similar duties, offer the same pay and benefits, and meet other requirements.
  4. It provides special protections for military servicemembers. If your child, parent or spouse serves in the U.S. Armed Forces, you can take up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period to care for him or her, if he or she is seriously injured or ill.
  5. It provides breaks and designated space for nursing mothers. If you are a nursing mother who needs to express breast milk while at work, covered employers must provide you with a private place (other than the bathroom) in which to do so. The FMLA also requires employers to provide a "reasonable amount of break time" for you to pump or express milk.
  6. It requires you to meet certain conditions. Not all employees are automatically covered by the FMLA. To be eligible, you must work for a covered employer, have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past 12 months (unless you are a flight attendant), work for a company that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius and have been employed at the company for a total of 12 months.
  7. If you are mistreated for taking FMLA leave, you can sue. Any type of retaliation on the part of your employer - such as firing you, demoting you or harassing you - is illegal. An employee rights attorney can stand up on your behalf and fight for the justice you deserve.
  8. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides California employees with extra leave entitlement. If an employee takes leave due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, the employee will have exhausted her annual entitlement to FMLA as well as Pregnancy Disability Leave (if the employer gives proper notice). However, California law states that CFRA leave and pregnancy disability leave are two separate and distinct rights. This means that after four months of pregnancy disability leave, qualifying California employees have the right to take another 12 weeks of leave "for reason of the birth of her child, if the child has been born by this date."
  9. San Francisco provides fully paid parental leave. In April 2016, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to require fully paid parental leave for bonding with a new child. The Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO) makes it possible for eligible employees to have 100 percent of their wages replaced during six weeks of leave taken to bond with a new child. The PPLO applies to employers with 20 or more employees, so long as at least one employer works in San Francisco.

Learn more about your rights under the FMLA, the CFRA, the PPLO and other state and federal laws by talking with one of the experienced lawyers at Lawless & Lawless in San Francisco.

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