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Can I get time off my job to care for a sick family member?

If you have a family member who has a serious illness, you may be struggling with trying to care for him or her while maintaining your job. It can be nearly impossible to balance your full-time work schedule if you are the primary caretaker for a sick loved one.

The federal government has a program in place to assist people in your situation. You may be eligible for this program, but it is important for you to understand how it works as well as avoid pitfalls that can occur when you request extended time off work under this program.

The basics of the Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly known as FMLA, is a federal program that allows you to take up to 12 weeks off work to care for a sick family member. Although FMLA leave is unpaid, the program protects your job so that your employer cannot fire you for taking the time permitted under the law. Under FMLA, you can care for an immediate family member, which means a spouse, a child, or a parent.

Conditions for FMLA eligibility

Not all employees can qualify to take leave under the FMLA. There are certain conditions that employees must meet to qualify for the program. For example, only employees who have already worked at their current employer for at least 12 months (or the equivalent of at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months) are eligible. Other conditions also apply. The important thing, however, is that if you meet the qualifications, your employer cannot retaliate against you for taking leave. Sometimes employers fire an employee for taking FMLA. This would be a case that a lawyer should handle, because it requires legal defense.

Caring for an immediate family member who is seriously ill is possible under the Family and Medical Leave Act. To learn more about whether you qualify for this program, you should consult with an employment law attorney who can help you understand your particular case.

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