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Do you qualify for FMLA protection in California?

Do you know your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act in California? The FMLA is one of the most important pieces of legislation for employees in the state, offering workers a significant amount of protection in the event of a health or family emergency. Understanding its provisions is a key step toward protecting your own rights in the workplace if you have to take time off because you or a loved one is ill.

The FMLA offers up to 12 weeks of protected leave annually for workers at firms whose companies fit certain requirements. That leave is unpaid, but it guarantees that a worker's job -- or a similar position -- will be available upon his or her return. Further, group health benefits may not be terminated during the protected leave, which means that insurance cannot be invalidated simply because someone is availing him or herself of FMLA protections. Workers use FMLA to provide them with job-protected leave because of a serious illness, the birth or adoption of a child, the need to care for an elderly relative and a variety of other reasons.

So, how do you know if you are eligible for FMLA protections? If you work for:

- Public agencies such as state or federal employers or schools or

- Private sector employers who have at least 50 workers for at least 20 weeks during either the current or previous working year,

then you are eligible for coverage. Employees at such firms may have legal recourse if they have been denied time off for family leave.

There are some caveats to those protections, however. Employees must also meet certain requirements themselves in order to be considered eligible for the leave. They must have worked for their current employer for at least the past 12 months, for example, and they must work at a branch of the company with at least 50 employees -- or within 75 miles of such a branch, among other requirements. If you believe that you have been unfairly refused medical leave by your employer, you may have legal options in California. Do not allow an unscrupulous employer to push you around; exercise your rights with the help of an attorney.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "The Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed Oct. 14, 2015

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