In addition to any leave your employer provides for vacation, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you might have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Iowa laws. For example, if you are temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy or you need time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Iowa law provides additional leave rights, including the right to time off for military service, jury duty, and more.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to bond with a new child, to care for a seriously ill family member (parent, child, or spouse), to recuperate from their own serious health conditions, or to handle certain urgent matters relating to a family member’s military service. The FMLA also requires employers to give employees up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffers or exacerbates a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this part of the law only, employees may take leave to care for a broader range of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to all employers with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for the employer for 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking time off. (Get more information on eligibility and leave rights at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states have created laws that provide employees with additional family and medical leave rights. In Iowa, employees have the right to take pregnancy disability leave. All employers with four or more employees must let employees take time off while they are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Employees may take up to eight weeks off for these purposes. This leave is not in addition to any time off to which the employee is entitled through sick leave, disability leave, or temporary disability insurance. In other words, employees are entitled to a total of eight weeks off, regardless of whether they are using paid time off or insurance benefits during that time.
The Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), another federal law, gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. These employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their military service. (Find out all about USERRA in Taking Military Leave.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military (such as the militia) or are called to state active duty. In Iowa, employees who are members of the national guard, reserves, military forces of the state, or civil air patrol are entitled to time off when called to state or federal temporary service or duty. Employers must reinstate these employees when they return. And, employers may not discriminate against these employees or fire them based on their military affiliation.
Iowa law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibilities of serving on a jury. Employers may not coerce or threaten an employee because the employee has received a jury summons or notice.
Time off for jury duty is unpaid. However, under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. (For more information, see our article on pay docking.)
Iowa also requires employers to give employees paid time off to case their ballots in an election. An employer must provide enough time off to give the employee three consecutive hours to vote when the polls are open, when combined with nonwork time. The employer may decide when these hours are taken.