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Can you take FMLA leave to care for your ailing or dying parent?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, employees may take unpaid and job-protected leave for 12 weeks for the birth, adoption or foster care of a child; to deal with a serious health condition; or to care for a spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition. There are also further opportunities to take leave for members of the military and their immediate family members.

However, FMLA only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. Additionally, employees are only protected by the federal law if they have been employed by their current employer for 52 weeks or more, and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 52 weeks leading up to the leave. Here in Milwaukee, workers also have rights under the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act. However, employers do not always respect the rights that workers are provided under these laws. For example, a recent study suggests workers who need time off to care for their sick parents are often not only denied leave, but they are discriminated against or even fired for requesting it.

The AARP Public Policy Institute and the Center for WorkLife Law recently released a report about the workplace discrimination experienced by caregivers of older adults.

Authors of the report apparently found that the discrimination is so widespread that "family caregivers" should be added as a protected class under federal anti-discrimination laws, according to Forbes.

Employees who are covered by FMLA may be wise to file legal complaints to hold their employers accountable when they are denied leave to care for their parents. This may provide compensation for damages as well as ensure the employer won't subject another worker to the same mistreatment.

However, the scope of existing laws may be too narrow to protect all workers from caregiver discrimination. Employment rights advocates are calling on FMLA expansions and other policies to ensure family caregivers are not discriminated against and that they receive the support they deserve as working caregivers.

Source: Forbes, "Sex Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Family Responsibilities Discrimination," Ashlea Ebeling, Sept. 10, 2012

  • Our law firm stands up for workers whose FMLA rights have been violated. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Milwaukee Federal FMLA page.

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