Under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), employees who qualify under FMLA and who work for a company that is covered by the FMLA are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a personal serious illness, a serious illness of a family member, or to care for a child.  Disputes tend to arise when an employee is denied leave or who is treated unfairly as a result of taking FMLA leave.

The circumstances in which leave should be granted are:

·         Birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, and to subsequently care for such newborn, adopted or foster child;

·         To take care of a child, spouse, or parent with serious health condition; or

·         If the employee has a serious health condition.

When reasonably possible, an employee should seek approval of leave in advance from his/her employer.  However, FMLA leave can be taken without prior approval when an unanticipated situation arises regarding a serious health condition of the employee, his/her child, spouse, or parent.  Emergency situations are sudden illnesses, going to the hospital or any other unanticipated health event.

Both an employer and employee should properly document the medical leave, the reasons for the leave and other relevant details regarding medical leave.  Documentation can prove helpful for both employers and employees if an issue arises.

An employer can request the employee to provide a doctor’s note clearing the employee to return to work. (See also, Retaliation).

Other Laws Regarding Sick Leave and Maternity Leave

There are also Massachusetts statutes that relate to maternity leave and the care for family members -- Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) and Small Necessities Leave Act (SNLA).  Massachusetts has a strong public policy favoring protecting the health and well-being of family members.

Additionally, employers must grant each employee up to forty (40) hours per year in sick time to care for a sick child, spouse or parent.  That time does not have to be taken in specific increments.

If you have any questions, please contact one of our parental and medical leave lawyers using the following inquiry form or by calling one of our offices.