The United States Department of Labor describes the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as one implemented to provide unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks while protecting job status and pay. In addition to absence from work, the FMLA dictates that employers cannot discontinue group health insurance benefits just because someone is on family leave. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) has served as a primary source for the establishment of equity in the workplace in the state of Connecticut. Despite the fact that the FMLA was instituted in 1993 and is enforced as a federal workplace law in the United States, women sometimes face issues regarding their rights to family leave and their reasons for taking it:
- Pregnancy/Maternity Leave. Pregnancy or maternity leave is provided for family members who have given birth to or adopted a child, as well as taken in a child for foster care. While the FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, six to eight weeks is often considered appropriate in this situation. Dependent upon a person’s condition and individual circumstances, more than six to eight weeks can be provided. Should there be issues with maternity leave, the advocates at CWEALF can help you understand and consider your rights in the matter. In addition to women taking family leave at the time of birth or adoption, fathers also have the right to take time to be at home during the crucial first weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.
- Continuance of Insurance Benefits. No employer can hold the threat of discontinuing health insurance over an employee’s head due to the need to take family leave. Under the law of the FMLA, employees are protected against such action and must be able to continue receiving the same health insurance benefits they did while working. This issue is a vital one as family leave is often taken due to health issues requiring treatment. Removal of insurance benefits is not only a violation of an employee’s rights, it also poses a threat to the attainment of necessary medical treatment.
- A Job to Return To. Knowing there’s a job to return to after taking family leave provides essential security to employees. Under the law of the FMLA, employers must provide an employee on family leave with the same job or one that is similar and has similar pay. Those taking family leave should never have to face fears that they won’t have a job to return to once they’re ready to come back to work. In some instances, if a company can demonstrate they are unable to hire an employee back for the same or similar job, exceptions to the law might be made. If you find yourself in this position, it’s wise to consider speaking to an advocate to make sure your know your options and rights.
- Pressure Regarding Family Responsibilities. Family leave can be taken due to an employee’s own illness or to care for family member during illness. An employer who places undue pressure on an employee for wanting time to care for a loved one is not respecting the employee’s rights to do so.
According to Connecticut state law, any private employer with 75 or more employees living within the Connecticut state boundaries must provide family leave to employees who have worked at least 1000 hours in a one-year period. While most companies and employers provide family and medical leave in accordance with the guidelines of the act, there are those who don’t. The advocates at CWEALF work with people who feel they may have been the target of workplace discrimination preventing them from family leave or from the protection provided by the law. While meeting with a CWEALF advocate, you will learn your rights and options in the situation, helping you take a stand against workplace discrimination, while preserving your rights to unpaid time off and the continuance of health insurance benefits.