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Taking Time Off to Care for a Child or Aging Parent Under the FMLA

Are you considering taking time off from your job in South Florida to care for an aging parent or for a sick child? It is important to recognize that you have certain rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which include taking time off from work to care for a family member who is ill. However, to ensure that you are indeed eligible, you will need to understand how the FMLA defines caring for an ill family member.

As a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) makes clear, the FMLA permits eligible employees to “take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period” for a number of different reasons, including “the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn child within one year of birth,” as well as “to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition.” In brief, you can take time off to care for a parent or child with a serious health condition, but you must ensure that the situation meets the necessary criteria to be eligible for FMLA leave.

Determining Your Eligibility for FMLA Leave

If you are taking time off to care for an aging parent or an ill child, what criteria must you meet in order to be within the bounds of the FMLA? There are three general requirements:

  • Requirements for the employer: to be an employee who is eligible for FMLA leave (known as a “covered employee”), you must work for an employer with at least 50 employees who all work within a 75-mile radius of the business (in other words, the business cannot be made up primarily of telecommuters). There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you work for a public school, or a federal or state government agency, then you still will be considered a “covered employee” even if your employer does not employ at least 50 people. Similarly, any member of the U.S. military is a “covered employee.”
  • Requirements for the employee: to be a “covered employee,” you not only need to meet the employer requirements discussed above, but you also must have worked for your current employer for at least 1,250 hours in total over a 12-month period. You do not have to be a full-time employee in order to be eligible. To be sure, part-time employees still can be “covered employees” for the purposes of FMLA leave if they have worked for their employer for an average of 24 hours per week or more over a 12-month period.Requirements for the care recipient: in many ways, the requirements of the care recipient are twofold. First, the parent or the child must have a “serious health condition” that prevents that elderly parent or child from providing “his or her own basic medical, hygienic, nutritional or safety needs, or is unable to transport himself or herself to the doctor,” according to a fact sheet from the DOL. Secondly, the person seeking FMLA leave must be providing substantial care. When it comes to caring for a child, a DOL compliance sheet helps to clarify that the parent—who can be the biological parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, or even foster parent—must be “assuming and discharging the obligations of a parent to a child.”

The good news is that the law does permit eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for a parent or child with a serious health condition. Yet each situation is different, and it is important to consult with an experienced West Palm Beach labor lawyer about your case. Contact Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A. to discuss your case.

Resources:

dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28f.pdf

webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/fmla/10b1.aspx

dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28c.pdf

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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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