Your Employment Rights as a Parent

There are certain rights you have as a parent that are protected by law.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is the principal law that describes the rights that parents have with regards to their employment. In essence, it requires qualifying employers to provide unpaid leave for medical and family reasons. The employee’s job is protected during the leave.

Prior to this law, the rules surrounding leave for medical and family issues were up to the employers. As an employee, your leave could be denied for any reason and you could even be fired for taking leave. There was no law requiring that employees within the same company had to be treated equally and uniformly.

Let’s take a look at the benefits afforded under the law and the qualifications that must be met.


  1. Up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year for the following situations:
    • To care for a new child or for the adoption or placement of a child in foster care.
    • To care for a seriously ill family member. A family member is considered to be a spouse, son, daughter, or parent. Some states also include domestic partners. Check your state.
    • To recover from your own serious illness.
    • To care for an injured family service member or to deal with issues resulting from his or her deployment.
    • Some states include other situations, such as organ or bone marrow donation, or caring for a non-seriously sick child.

  2. Other benefits:
    • Employers must provide the same health insurance benefits, including the employer’s premium contribution, as if the employee were not on leave.
    • Employers must provide the same position upon return to work. If the same position is not available, a similar position must be provided. It must be similar in pay, benefits, and responsibility.
    • Protection from retaliation by the employer for utilizing the Family and Medical Leave Act.


To qualify for the benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act, certain conditions must be met.

  1. Employers. You must be employed by an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the workplace, or be employed by a public agency; this would include schools, federal, state, and local employers.
    • Some states have taken the law further and lowered the threshold to less than 50 employees. Become familiar with the laws in your state.

  2. Length of employment. You must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours within the last 12 months. The 12-month employment criterion does not have to be a consecutive 12 months.

Many people are under the impression that they are still paid while taking leave under this act. But it is not required that your employer continue to pay you. Some companies will continue to pay your salary, but that is the exception and not the rule.

While it is against the law to punish those that make use of the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is not uncommon for many employers to frown upon those that take family or medical leave. This seems to be especially true for male workers. It can be difficult to prove that you didn’t receive a promotion or pay raise because you took a leave of absence.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows for you to care for a new child or a sick child without fear of losing your job. The same job, or a comparable job, will be available when you return to work. Benefits are preserved and retaliation of any kind is illegal.

Be sure you are aware of your rights so you can care for your loved ones with confidence, knowing that you can still return to your job.

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