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Can I take family leave to care for a stepparent?

There are times in many people's working lives where they have crucial personal issues that must be prioritized above their work. This can be especially true when a family member is suffering from a serious illness, and you must take time off in order to care for them. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) means that employees have the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks in order to care for a seriously ill parent, child or spouse.

How is "parent" defined under the FMLA?

If a worker needs to take time off work in order to care for a stepparent, adoptive parent or a parental figure in his or her life, he or she may be concerned about how the FMLA defines "parent." In addition, he or she will wonder if job-protected unpaid leave is possible. The act recognizes that a parental figure may not be a biological parent. Therefore, the act defines "parent" in a very broad manner, specifying that a person can qualify as a parent or child in the eyes of the act as long as he or she has a parental-child relationship and the responsibilities that this entails.

Loco parentis

Loco parentis is a latin term used in the act which means that a person stood in the place of a parent and carried all the parental responsibilities necessary. Therefore, if a person stood in loco parentis to you, then you have a right to take leave in order to care for him or her when he or she is sick.

If you are having difficulties in successfully taking leave under the FMLA, you should inform your employer of your rights. If that does not work, an employment attorney can explain your legal options.

Source: Department of Labor, "#28C: The definition of “parent” as it applies to an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee for FMLA “eldercare” protections.," accessed Dec. 14, 2017

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