In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Texas laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Although Texas does not have its own family and medical leave law, it does require employers to give employees time off for military service, jury duty, and voting.
This article provides an overview of your right to time off from work in Texas. For more information, see our page on employee leave rights.
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 care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from 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 suffered or exacerbated a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (For purposes of this military family leave provision only, employees may take leave to care for a wider set of family members, including siblings, grandparents, and cousins, if they are next of kin to an injured service member.)
The FMLA applies to employers in all states with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible only if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. (Learn much more about your rights under the FMLA at our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
While some states provide additional family and medical leave rights, Texas does not. However, if a Texas employer with 15 or more employees offers leave to care for a sick child, leave must also be allowed to care for a sick foster child. (This law takes effect on September 1, 2017.)
Another federal law, the Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) 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. (Find out all about USERRA in Nolo's article, Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. And, employees may be fired only for good cause for a period of up to one year after they return from service, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
The laws of many states extend similar rights to employees who serve in the state’s military, including the right to take time off from work and to be reinstated afterwards. In Texas, members of the Texas military forces or the military forces of any other state have the right to reinstatement upon their return from a call to active duty or training. Employees have the right to return to the same job, with no loss of seniority, vacation time, efficiency rating, or other job benefits. Employees must give notice of their intent to return to work as soon as is practicable following their release from military duty.
Texas law gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of voting. Employers may not refuse to give employees time off to cast their ballots. This time off must be paid. However, employers need not provide time off to employees who have at least two consecutive nonwork hours when the polls are open.
Employers must also allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. Employees are required to notify their employers of when they plan to return to work following jury service. This time off is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. 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.