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Workers who are ill or new parents may have FMLA rights

One of the most important pieces of federal law for American workers is the Family and Medical Leave Act. This law recognizes that, sooner or later, most people experience life events that need their full attention for a while. However, few people are willing or able to quit their job permanently due to a new child or health emergency.

What most people want instead is the chance to take a leave of absence to deal with their personal situation, after which their job will be waiting for them. This is what the FMLA provides for certain types of employees. The FMLA guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work to deal with family issues, including:

  • Childbirth or pregnancy
  • Adoption
  • Serious health issue
  • Caring for an ill relative
  • Caring for a relative who has returned from active military duty

Besides keeping your job safe during your leave, your employer is required by the FMLA to keep your health insurance active, if you get health insurance through work. This is especially important for someone going through serious illness or a difficult pregnancy. Government workers, public school teachers and employees of companies with at least 50 employees are eligible.

Despite this legal obligation, many employers seek to punish employees who attempt to exercise their right to medical leave. Perhaps out of resentment, or as an excuse to "punish" a whistleblower employee, some employers violate the FMLA. They may deny leave, or fire the worker while he or she is still out of work. This is against the law, and victims have the right to fight back.

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