The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires larger employers (those with at least 50 employees) to give employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year, with benefits, to care for a new child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to recuperate from their own serious health condition, or to handle certain qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service. Employees may take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a family member who was seriously injured on military duty. (For information on the FMLA, see Providing Family and Medical Leave.)
Find out everything you need to know about the FMLA with Nolo's book The Essential Guide to Family & Medical Leave.
The FMLA is not the only law that protects employees who need time off for caretaking responsibilities or for a serious health condition, however. Many state laws also allow employees to take time off for family and medical reasons. And, some states have family and medical leave laws that apply to smaller employers, who are not covered by the FMLA. Find out your state's rules by selecting it from the list below.
State family and medical leave laws fall into a handful of broad categories. In states that haven’t adopted any FML statutes, the federal FMLA regulations apply to employers that are large enough. In states that have adopted one or more of these laws, the employee is entitled to the rights set out in the most protective law that applies in any given situation – including the FMLA.
Here are the most common types of state family and medical leave laws; select your state from the list above to find out your rights.
Comprehensive family and medical leave laws. About a dozen states have laws that are quite similar to the FMLA, requiring employers to provide medical, caretaking, and/or parental leave. Typically, these laws overlap with the FMLA in many respects but also offer additional benefits. For example, some laws apply to smaller employers, cover more family members, or allow longer periods of leave.
Pregnancy disability leave laws. Some states require employers to provide time off for pregnancy disability: the length of time when a woman is temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. Typically, these laws don't provide for a set amount of time off per year or per pregnancy. Instead, they require employers to provide either a "reasonable" amount of leave or leave for the period of disability, often with a maximum time limit.
Adoption leave laws. A handful of states require employers to offer the same leave to adoptive parents as to biological parents. Generally, these laws don't require an employer to offer parental leave. However, employers that choose to offer some form of parental leave must make it equally available to adoptive parents.
Small necessities laws. Some states require employers to allow time off for various family needs, such as attending school functions, taking a child to routine dental or medical appointments, or helping with eldercare. These laws have come to be known as "small necessities" laws, to recognize needs that don't take up much time but are important to employees.
Domestic violence leave laws. Some states allow employees to take time off for issues relating to domestic violence, such as seeking a restraining order, getting medical care or counseling, or relocating to a safe environment.
In many states, the FMLA is the only game in town. However, if you work in a state that has its own leave law, you may be entitled to leave under the FMLA, state law, or both. For example, if your state offers family leave to care for grandparents or siblings, you are entitled to take leave under that law, even though the FMLA doesn’t cover these family members.
Generally speaking, it’s your employer’s responsibility to figure out which laws apply and follow the appropriate rules. But it never hurts to know your rights. Select your state from the list above to find out about the laws that protect your right to leave.