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While you may have the right to paid family leave you may also have a right to unpaid family leave or unpaid medical leave as job-protected time off to care for your own serious medical needs, bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address needs due to a family member’s military deployment. You may hear this right referred to as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Am I covered?

If you work at least 1,250 hours per year, for a government or private employer that has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, and have worked there for at least one year, then you are covered.

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and how much leave can I take?

If you’re covered, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill child, parent, or spouse, or care for your own serious health needs.

What can I use FMLA unpaid leave for?

You can use the unpaid time off to care for your own serious medical needs (i.e. physical and mental illness or injury and needs related to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth), to bond with a new child, to care for a seriously ill family member, or address certain military family needs.

If I’m taking FMLA leave to care for a seriously ill family member, what family members can leave be taken to care for?

You can take unpaid time off to care for children under the age of 18 (or an adult child unable to care for him or herself due to a physical or mental disability), a spouse, or a parent.

Will my job be protected when I’m on FMLA unpaid leave?

Yes. You have the right to return either to the same job you had before leave or to an equivalent job (i.e. equivalent in terms of pay, seniority, benefits, shift, location, etc.). If you receive healthcare coverage through your employer, you also have the right to keep your healthcare coverage under its current conditions.

What are the key differences between FMLA unpaid leave and New York paid family leave?

If you work for the government, you have a legal right to FMLA unpaid leave but not to New York paid family leave.

You can use FMLA to care for your own serious health needs. You cannot use paid family leave to care for your own health needs.

New York’s paid family leave law gives you the right to be paid while you are on leave, while FMLA only gives you the right to unpaid time.

New York paid family leave and FMLA have different eligibility requirements.

The types of family members you can take time to care for differ under each law.

Do I have to take New York paid family leave and FMLA unpaid leave at the same time?

If you are eligible for both the FMLA and paid family leave, your employer can require you to take time under both laws at the same time (concurrently).

A couple additional notes:

  • These laws apply to you regardless of your immigration or citizenship status.
  • The information listed in this section does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated. 

To view the full Working Woman’s Pocket Guide, click here.

Download the complete Working Woman’s Pocket Guide here

If you have questions about any of the rights discussed in this guide, we are here to help. A Better Balance’s free, confidential legal helplines can help you understand your workplace rights. We offer services in English and Spanish.

General Hotline: (212) 430–5982
Paid Family Leave Hotline: 1-833-NEED–ABB

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