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When do I have the right to take family or medical leave?

The longer we live in this world, the more we understand that there are some things we cannot control. We also realize that there are some things that are far more important than a job, such as the health of our families and ourselves. Before the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) existed, it wasn't uncommon for employees to lose their jobs because they developed a health condition -- or a family member did -- that required them to leave work temporarily.

Now, the FMLA protects employees at companies with 50-plus workers by giving them the freedom to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off work without fear of losing their jobs. Here are four circumstances in which an employee can apply for this leave:

A new baby has come into your family: Your wife is giving birth to a baby next week. You know she's going to need your help to care for the little one in the days and weeks that follow this beautiful event. You can ask for family and medical leave to help your family during this important time. You can also ask for time off if you are the one giving birth to the baby or if you and your spouse are adopting a baby.

Your parent is ill and you need to help: Imagine your father becomes gravely ill and he requires your round-the-clock assistance and care. Most people would say good-bye to their jobs in a heartbeat to ensure that a parent is well taken care of. If you qualify for time off under the FMLA, however, you can tend to your parent's needs and return to your job when your assistance is no longer required. The same benefits apply if your child or spouse are ill.

You become so sick that you can't do your job: If you are suffering from a health condition that prevents you from doing your work, you can also take time off to rest, get medical care and heal.

Do you need to take time off under the FMLA, but your employer is discouraging you? The law may be on your side. Learn more about how to assert your FMLA rights under this vital piece of federal law.

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