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Understand your leave request rights as an employee

If your employer is obligated to obey the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you need to be aware of your rights when it comes to requesting leave -- because you certainly can't expect your employer to explain them to you or look out for your welfare.

1. You do not specifically have to make a request under the FMLA to qualify for FMLA leave. According to the Department of Labor's fact sheet, you don't have to use "FMLA" as some sort of magical invocation in order to assert your rights.

2. You only need to let your employer know you need FMLA in advance when it is practical to do so. If there is no way to know in advance, an employer cannot demand 30-days notice.

3. If your employer was already aware of your health issues (or your family member's health issues) and reasonably could foresee the need for leave under the FMLA, that's sufficient notice. For example, if you tell your employer that your husband was just diagnosed with cancer and is having trouble ambulating without help, that's reasonable notice that you may need leave.

4. Your employer can't reject your request for leave under the FMLA just because you provided insufficient information to meet the employer's requirements. Your employer must let you know what information is missing and give you reasonable time to gather the information.

5. Your employer has no right to harass or treat you differently because you took leave under the FMLA. If you believe you were penalized after asserting your FMLA rights, you may have a valid discrimination claim and should seek legal assistance.

6. Your employer cannot require you to work while you are on leave. Even if telecommuting is possible, your employer has to respect your request for leave fully. Nor can your employer ask you to come in for just a little work.

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, it's wise to learn more about your legal options.

Source:, "Fact Sheet #28E Employee Notice Requirements Under the Family Medical Leave Act," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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