Time Off From Work: What You Need to Know
No matter how much an employee enjoys a position or how well he or she is compensated for work performed, almost everyone experiences extenuating circumstances at some point or another that may call for time off from work. Examples of such circumstances include sicknesses, deaths in the family, maternity leave or calls for jury duty. It is important that today’s employers understand what is required of them in terms of granting employees’ requests for time off and whether the time off must be paid or unpaid. Employers who fail to adhere to the regulations surrounding time off from work run the risk of becoming the subjects of employee lawsuits.
Family and Medical Leave Guidelines
Employees who require time off from work for particular medical or family-related reasons are protected in doing so at the federal level by what is known as the Family and Medical Leave Act. Generally speaking, the rules of the FMLA apply to government agencies, private companies that handle interstate commerce and businesses with 50 or more workers for 20 or more weeks during the last calendar year. In order to be eligible, employees must have worked for the company for a full year prior to requesting time off, and they must also have worked at least 1,250 hours during the aforementioned 12-month period. Furthermore, their employer must employ at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius, and the place of business must fall within the United States or a territory of the United States. In the event that the employee and employer meet this criteria, FMLA guidelines state the employee can take time off for the birth of a child (or an adoption), to care for a member of his or her immediate family who has a serious health issue, or to deal with his or her own serious medical condition.
Maternity Leave Guidelines
Employees who meet the aforementioned criteria are also protected at the federal level for taking maternity leave, which may refer to time taken off before or after the birth or adoption of a child. FMLA guidelines dictate that covered employees may take as many as 12 weeks of maternity leave time within a 12-month period. Employers are not, however, required by law to compensate employees who take maternity leave during this time. Often, employees use vacation time or paid time off they’ve built up to help offset the financial loss that may come with taking maternity leave. Some workers who take maternity leave pursue short-term disability benefits through their employers or through private or state-sponsored programs as another method of minimizing financial losses.
Paid Time Off and Sick Time Guidelines
While FMLA guidelines protect covered employees who need to take time off from work for certain reasons, employers in most states are not required to offer the employee compensation during his or her time off. A handful of states do, however, offer paid time off or partially paid time off for certain medical or family reasons, among them California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington and Washington, D.C.
Jury Duty Guidelines
When it comes to requesting time off for jury duty, employers are frequently reluctant to grant it, particularly given the chance that the employee may need to be away from the job for a week, a month or even longer. Because so many employers prefer not to give employees time off (paid or unpaid) for jury duty, many states have their own laws dictating that employers may not discourage their workers from performing their civic responsibilities by serving jury duty. Some state laws also dictate whether the employee must furnish proof of his or her jury appointment, and it’s also important to note that some states set separate standards for nighttime employees, who may have additional protections in place to ensure they aren’t working all night and sitting on a jury the next day. In most states, time taken off for jury duty is unpaid, but this is not always the case. Again, it is critical that employers familiarize themselves with the most current rules in place for their specific states to ensure they don’t inadvertently break them. The rules regarding time off from work are complex and may vary broadly from one state to the next. It is essential that today’s employers understand the provisions set forth by the FMLA, federal rules regarding time off from work and any state-specific rules and regulations to which they also must adhere. Seeking advice from a legal expert who is well versed in such state laws and regulations can be a good idea.
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