Stephen Colbert recently left his hit television show, "The Colbert Report," to care for his sick mother. For someone like Colbert, returning to work is probably not much of a concern, but for many Colorado residents, the right to return to work after leaving to care for a loved one is not necessarily guaranteed.
Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law in 1993. The FMLA provides a number of protections for employees struggling with illness or needing to care for a loved one who is struggling with an illness. Among the protections provided in the FMLA is up to 12 weeks' leave to care for a family member. The leave comes with the assurance that an employee can return to the same job or a very similar job afterwards.
With all of its benefits, however, the law is not without its limitations. For one thing, the FMLA strictly defines who an employee can take leave to care for, and only guarantees unpaid leave. The FMLA also only applies to businesses with a minimum of 50 employees, and employees, to be eligible, must work at least 1,250 hours within the 12-month period prior to the leave. This means that less than half of all American workers are actually covered by the FMLA.
The FMLA is a great piece of legislation for employees with specific needs. If workers take FMLA leave and are denied their old job or a very similar job upon their return, they can demand their rights in a court of law. Employers cannot discriminate against sick employees or employees who are only seeking to act within their rights under federal law.
Since the FMLA does not protect all employees equally, it is important for workers to understand the federal protections that are available to them in the event they need to take time off work to care for an ailing family member.
Source: Forbes, "Colbert Takes Family Leave; Does Law Protect Your Right To Do The Same?" Susan Adams, Feb. 17, 2012