New York is one of 48 states that do not offer a family leave insurance program for workers. Only New Jersey and California offer such a program. There is, of course, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for qualifying workers to take unpaid leave. But a word to remember here is "unpaid." Not every employee can afford to take unpaid time off from work, even if the serious medical condition of a spouse or a child makes extreme demands on the worker.
To put this problem in perspective, consider that the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee some kind of paid family leave. This kind of leave is extremely important for pregnant employees, for instance, and there is evidence showing the positive effects, both in terms of business and public health, of having paid-leave programs.
Many employees in New York undoubtedly have a difficult time balancing work and family, but when an unexpected (or expected) medical emergency happens, the struggle can be even tougher.
As for FMLA, workers should be aware that some employers will even deny a request for unpaid leave. Sometimes these denials are based on when the worker made the request or some other technicality. It is a good idea for employees to know the FMLA requirements before filing a request.
Unfortunately, in some cases, an employer will approve an FMLA request but then retaliate against the worker who asked for the unpaid time off. When this happens, employees need to be aware of their legal options. To learn more about the eligibility requirements for FMLA, please visit our New York FMLA site.
Source: The New York Times, "Protect Workers With Family Leave," Janet Walsh, July 4, 2013