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Family and Medical Leave

Everyone, at one time or another, suffers from health problems or has to care for a family member suffering with a health problem. When these occasions arise, even the most dedicated workers sometimes need to take periods of leave from work. Many workers also choose to have children and need leave related to the birth or adoption of a child. There are laws that entitle certain employees to take leave from work for these reasons and prohibit employers from retaliating against them when they do. If your employer has denied you leave for a personal health problem, a family member's health problem, or the birth/adoption of a new child, contact the New Hampshire Employee Rights Group. We have decades of experience protecting the rights of employees to family and medical leave.

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), many employees are entitled to unpaid leave when they need it for their own health problems, to care for a family member with a health problem, because of the birth or adoption of a new child, or because of certain events related to the military service of a family member. FMLA-eligible employees are entitled to protected leave in the following situations:

  1. For the birth and care of an employee's newborn child;
  2. For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  3. To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition;
  4. To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
  5. For any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or called to covered active duty status.

If you are eligible for FMLA leave for these reasons, you are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period. Your employer may have to provide you with additional medical leave beyond 12 weeks if you need leave because of a disability or the birth of a child. (See our Disability Discrimination and Pregnancy Discrimination pages for more information on medical leave in these situations.) For leave related to a family member serving in the military, eligible employees may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

Employers cannot fire, demote, or take any other adverse action against employees who take legally protected FMLA leave. Adverse actions can include suspending an employee's health insurance and moving the employee to a different job. If an employer takes an adverse action against an employee because they took protected FMLA leave, it may be held liable for violating the employee's rights.

It is important to note that not every employee is eligible for FMLA leave and not every employer is required to provide it. The issue of whether an employee is eligible for FMLA leave and whether the FMLA covers an employer can be complicated. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours within the 12-month period prior to the need for the FMLA leave. To be covered by the FMLA, an employer must either be a public agency (like a municipality) or employ 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the place where the employee asking for FMLA leave works. (There are different criteria for eligibility and coverage under disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination laws.)

Leave for Employees not Eligible Under FMLA

As noted above, employees who need to take leave because of a disability or pregnancy may be entitled to leave even if they are not eligible for FMLA leave. Both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New Hampshire's Law Against Discrimination, with limited exceptions, require employers to provide medical leave to disabled employees who need medical leave as a reasonable accommodation. New Hampshire law also entitles female employees to leave related to the birth of a child even if the FMLA does not require the employer to provide her with leave. For more information on these laws, see our pages on disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.

Consult a Lawyer if You Need Assistance With a Medical Leave Dispute

The medical leave attorneys at the New Hampshire Employee Rights Group may be able to help you if your employer has refused to provide you with family or medical leave as required by law. We may also be able to assist you if your employer has illegally retaliated against you for taking family or medical leave. We serve workers throughout New Hampshire and will provide you with an initial consultation.