Do the medical leave laws cover in-laws?


I work for a large supermarket chain. My mother-in-law is very ill, and my husband can't take time off work right now. Can I take leave from work to care for her?


The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) did not anticipate chummy relationships with in-laws. It allows employees unpaid time off to care for children, spouses, or parents -- or to deal with their own medical needs. But in-laws are not mentioned.

This means that the FMLA doesn't give you the legal right to take time off to care for your mother-in-law. But you may be able to convince your employer to give you some unpaid time off anyway -- particularly if other employees have received such leave. And because parents are covered under the FMLA, your husband may have a right to take leave to care for his mom.

Many states also have laws that provide for family leave, and those laws frequently differ from the federal law. A few allow leave to care for in-laws or relatives living in the household. Contact your state labor department to find out whether your state offers this type of protection.

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