Can your employer fire you if you need leave to care for a child?

As a parent, you have a moral and legal obligation to your children. When they need help, it is your responsibility to provide it. You should seek medical care when your child falls ill and ensure that they have all of the necessities to thrive.

Sometimes, children require more than just an afternoon off of work because they got sick at school. Teenagers can hurt their brains or spinal cords in car crashes or sporting accidents. Young adults who have already left the family home might end up coming back after some kind of trauma or tragedy.

When your child needs care and has no one else to depend on, they will likely turn to you. If you need time off of work to help your child recover, can your employer punish you for that?

If you have enough co-workers, you have rights under federal law

If you work for a government agency or a private business with more than 50 employees, then you have the right to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

This federal law grants up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a personal medical reason or a family emergency. If your child serves in the military and has injuries related to that service, you might qualify for 26 weeks of unpaid leave from work.

Needing to provide care for a child after an accident or while they undergo medical treatment would be a perfect example of a family situation that qualifies for FMLA leave. Your employer should allow you to take that unpaid leave and then return to your job without any career consequences.

What if your employer won’t grant you time off of work?

It is a surprisingly common occurrence for workers to go to their boss asserting their rights under the FMLA, only to hear back that they may not take leave. The company may try to claim that they don’t have adequate staff to cover that worker’s responsibilities or that the worker taking a leave of absence would impose an undue hardship on the company.

Trying to communicate about any FMLA leave request in writing will protect you if the company attempts to violate your rights or penalize you for asserting them. When you have written records of the communication, it will be easier for you to show how your boss denied you leave or threatened you for taking it.

Learning more about the FMLA and your rights as a worker can help you fight back if your employer denies those you leave or tries to punish you for taking it.

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