Family Leave Options

Anita,

My dad who lives in Florida just had a massive stroke. I need to help my parents arrange for long-term healthcare and sell their house to pay for it. Is there a way I can assist them temporarily without quitting my job in California and moving across the country?

Dear, Worried Daughter,

I’m sorry your family is going through this difficult time.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted to assist in situations such as yours. The FMLA allows eligible employees at companies with 50 employees or more to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons without losing their jobs or health coverage. Covered employees who have worked at least one year and have accumulated 1,250 hours within that year are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” (military caregiver leave allows servicemembers themselves 26 workweeks of leave)

California also has a similar California Family Rights Act. The CFRA would run concurrently with the FMLA, but there are some differences (for instance, pregnancy is not covered as a serious health condition by CFRA, but is under FMLA). View the California Department of Human Resources’ chart for a comparison.

Your employer may require you to use any paid time off (PTO) before taking FMLA leave. And just like the requirement to get out of gym class back in school, you’ll need the customary doctor’s note to be excused from work under FMLA.

Note also that if you make a contribution toward your group health insurance premiums that is normally deducted from your paycheck, you will have to pay for this out of pocket while on leave. In fact, if you don’t have an emergency fund, 12 weeks of unpaid leave may not be feasible. Unemployment is generally not an option, as you voluntarily went on unpaid leave and you must be available to work to qualify. (Tip: Some utilities such as cable providers may allow a “seasonal hold” while you are away from home, which can be less costly than turning off and then having to pay to reconnect when you return from your leave. Mortgage lenders and landlords may or may not be as willing to defer payments.) If your parents are financially able, they may be able to compensate you for your caregiving time with a personal care agreement. For elderly parents with few assets other than their home, Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program (available in about 30 states) may help them pay for home health care services – including cleaning, meal preparation, or transportation – from whomever they choose.

Four states have approved paid family leave programs – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington (whose program has been deferred due to budget shortfalls). If you are eligible, you may receive a percentage of your base wages for a period of time. Here’s a handy chart showing eligibility and coverage by state.

Readers: When and how has the Family Medical Leave Act benefitted you?

RELATED POSTS:

In Case of Family Emergencies
A (Practically) Perfect Parental Leave Policy

In Case of Family Emergencies…

Hi, Anita:

My mother has recently become very ill and is soon going to be requiring full-time care. Are there any protections for me so I do not lose my job over this family emergency?

Dear, Fear of Being Fired:

Thank you for the question. Caring for a sick family member or parent can be a very challenging and time-consuming ordeal. Luckily, there are some protections and support for you in case an emergency strikes — namely, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Family_Emergencies_MWUnder FMLA, companies that have over 50 employees within 75 miles from the company are required to offer 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to take care of a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. It also covers the birth and care of an employee’s child or that employee’s adoption or foster care of a child.

In order for an employee to qualify, he/she must meet the following criteria:

  • Employee must be employed by the company for over 1 year.
  • At least 1,250 hours must have been worked in the last 12 months.

For those that may have a more complicated situation and need to care for someone who is not a legal or biological relation, you will need to prove that the person needing your care is in loco parentis with you. You might be asking yourself, what in the world is in loco parentis? According to the U.S. Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #28C, in loco parentis refers to a relationship in which a person has put himself/herself in the situation of a parent by assuming responsibility for a child to whom they are not legally or biologically connected. In other words, the person who needs your care is not your biological or legal parent but took care of you as if he/she was.Wheelchair

To prove your situation qualifies as in loco parentis, be prepared to provide the following information:

  • How old was the employee when in loco parentis care began?
  • How dependent was the employee on the person during childhood?
  • What was the extent to which duties commonly associated with parenthood was provided?
  • Did the person provide the employee with day-to-day responsibilities of care or financially supported them as a child?

I hope this helps shine some positive light on your situation and that it will help lessen your job-security concerns. As always, in these situations, consult your Human Resources representative to make sure you are all on the same page and to keep them informed on your situation. The more you know and can prepare, the better off you will be.

Readers, have you ever been in a similar situation? What recommendations do you have for Fear of Being Fired?

Here are some additional resources that are worth reading if you are faced with this situation:

And here is a quick video that spells out who is eligible for FMLA rights:

Have a question you would like to ask? Comment below or visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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