Know Your Rights

Knowledge is power! As you navigate caring for yourself and your loved ones while earning a paycheck, a combination of federal, state, and local workplace laws can help ensure you are free from discrimination and have the time and support you need.

 

This state-by-state guide is organized into five tabs based on the situations that may be prompting you to seek information about your legal rights. Many of the laws we address overlap and can be used for different purposes, and are therefore discussed under more than one tab.

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Minnesota

Staying healthy at work while you are pregnant is sometimes challenging: you may be dealing with morning sickness, back pain, or doctor’s appointments every few weeks. For women who have suffered a miscarriage, you may need time off for recovery. U.S., Minnesota, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy Discrimination 

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to treat employees unfairly because they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced pregnancy loss. That means:
    • Your boss can’t fire you or cut your hours when they find out that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant—you have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job. You also have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
    • If your employer asks you about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview, that may be evidence of pregnancy discrimination.
    • Your employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided a case where it clarified what this means. The Court said that employers may not put a “significant burden” on pregnant employees. How do you know what’s a significant burden? Start looking around at how your employer treats other non-pregnant employees who have needed an accommodation at work. For example, does your employer have a policy of giving light duty only to those with on-the-job injuries? Or did they have no problem helping out folks with non-pregnancy related disabilities, but sent all the pregnant women out onto unpaid leave? If so, this could be evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It’s best to collect all the evidence you can (policies, employee handbooks or manuals, digging around to find out how others have been treated) and to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.
  • The Minnesota Human Rights Act also bans pregnancy discrimination, and covers all employers regardless of size. The law also says that employers have to treat women affected by pregnancy or childbirth the same as other employees with similar limitations or needs—for example, if they give light duty to a man with a back injury, they must give you light duty for back pain during pregnancy.

Workplace Accommodations

If you need changes at work to stay healthy on the job, the laws below can help. In addition, click the green button to learn how to talk with your boss about your pregnancy and request an accommodation if you need one.

  • Under Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law, if you work for an employer with 21 or more employees, you are entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” because of your pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, unless it would be really difficult or expensive for your employer to give it to you. This means:
    • Your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a bigger uniform, a stool to sit on, or light duty while you are pregnant—they have to give you what you need to stay healthy at work, unless your employer can show that it would seriously harm the business.
    • You must ask for the accommodation based on the advice of your licensed health care provider or certified doula, unless you are requesting any of the following accommodations (for which you do not need to consult with a healthcare provider): (1) more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; (2) seating; and (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds.
    • Your employer has to engage with you in an interactive process to find out what “reasonable accommodations” can help you continue working.
    • Examples of accommodations explicitly covered by the law include temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, seating, frequent restroom breaks, and limits to heavy lifting.
    • For more information, see here.
  • If you are not covered by Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law (for example, if you work out of state), there is another federal law that may help you. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Some pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities under the law. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you have a pregnancy-related disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.
    • Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities so check with a lawyer to see whether you have a right to an accommodation at work.
  • The Minnesota Human Rights Act also bans disability discrimination and covers almost all employers regardless of size.
  • If you work in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, or Duluth, and are covered by the paid sick time law in that locality, you may be able to use your accrued time off for medical needs while pregnant, e.g., for a prenatal appointment. For more information on this law, see the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” tab.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you have the right to take time off during pregnancy or after experiencing a miscarriage without losing your job. See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” section under the next tab for more information and see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.
  • Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law (see above) may also give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a “reasonable accommodation.”

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with no national law guaranteeing women the right to paid leave for childbirth. However, you may have the right to unpaid leave during pregnancy, childbirth, and to bond with a new child. You may have additional rights under state and/or local laws. See the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” or “Caring for a Loved One” tabs for more information.

Unpaid, Job-Protected Leave 

The law may protect your job while you are taking leave due to pregnancy, childbirth, or to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children).

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own health (including pregnancy), to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Remember that you only get 12 weeks a year in total—if you take time off before you give birth for your own health needs, you’ll have less time afterward to spend with your baby.
    • Before giving birth, you may use your leave an hour or day at a time—such as by taking a day off per week to go to the doctor—rather than all at once. Your employer must approve, however, if you want to use leave time in smaller chunks to bond with your baby.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you are in the top 10% of highest-paid workers in your company, different rules apply.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • The Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) is similar to the FMLA, but covers a few more workers.
    • You are eligible for the MPLA if: 1) your workplace has 21 or more employees at any one site, and 2) you have worked for your employer at least half-time for 12 months.
    • If you are eligible, the MPLA gives you the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for prenatal care, the birth or adoption of a child, or for incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.
    • While you are on leave, your employer has to allow you to continue your insurance coverage (but doesn’t have to pay for it).
  • Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law may also give you the right to unpaid, job-protected time off work as a “reasonable accommodation” to physically recover from childbirth. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • If your boss treats workers who take time off for childbirth differently from workers who take time off for other medical treatments (for example, they give most workers 2 weeks off for surgery but only 1 week for childbirth), this could be illegal under the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Call A Better Balance if you think you are being treated unfairly.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you return to work as a new parent, you may still need a few extra breaks to pump breastmilk or time off to care for your baby when they’re sick. There are a few laws that can help you get back to work safely and still care for your family.

Returning from Childbirth 

  • If you are disabled for a period of time after childbirth, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Minnesota Human Rights Act, discussed in the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab, may apply.
    • If so, you may be able to get an accommodation at work, such as light duty, while you recover.
  • Even if you are not disabled, Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law, discussed under the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab, may give you a right to accommodations while you recover from childbirth.

Nursing Rights 

  • Under Minnesota law, you have the right to express or pump milk at work. If you work in Minnesota, your employer must give you unpaid break time to express breast milk. They also must try to provide a private location with access to an electrical outlet, other than a bathroom, for you to pump.
  • If you work for an employer in Minnesota with 21 or more employees, Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodations law also gives you the right to lactation accommodations, which may include temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or breaks for increased food or water intake unless they would be really difficult or expensive for your employer to provide. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • Rights for breastfeeding workers are strong in Minnesota, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside Minnesota):
    • The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) gives some U.S. workers the right to take unpaid breaks at work to pump milk, and requires some employers to find a clean, private place that’s not a bathroom for employees to pump milk. This law only applies to workers and employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements.
    • It may be illegal under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating.
  • Under Minnesota law, you have the right to breastfeed your child in any public or private location.
  • For more information about your nursing rights, click here.

Caring for Your Family: Family Illness and Caregiver Discrimination 

As a new parent, you may face discrimination at work or have problems taking time off when you or your baby is sick. These laws can help you balance your job and caring for your family.

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information on this law.
  • If you work in certain cities in Minnesota, you may have the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care. 
  • If you work in Minneapolis, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 6 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 5 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of unpaid sick time per year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or another member of your household.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Saint Paul, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Duluth for an employer with 5 or more employees, you may have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 50 hours you work, up to a maximum of 64 hours per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any other individual related by blood or whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • You have the right to take up to 16 hours of School Conference and Activities Leave to attend school-related activities for your children. You have to give your employer notice when you can. All employers are covered, regardless of size.
  • Caregiver discrimination is illegal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Your employer cannot discriminate against you because you are a parent or legal guardian of a minor.
    • Several localities in Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, have also outlawed employment discrimination based on familial status. See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill.  However, this law does not give relatives of a person with a disability the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

Taking Time Off from Work

  • If you work in certain cities in Minnesota, you may have the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
  • If you work in Minneapolis, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 6 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 5 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of unpaidsick time per year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Saint Paul, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Duluth for an employer with 5 or more employees, you may have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 50 hours you work, up to a maximum of 64 hours per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • The Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) is similar to the FMLA, but covers a few more workers. This law only covers new parents.
    • You are eligible for the MPLA if: 1) your workplace has 21 or more employees at any one site, and 2) you have worked for your employer at least half-time for 12 months.
    • If you are eligible, the MPLA gives you the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for prenatal care, the birth or adoption of a child, or for incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.
    • While you are on leave, your employer has to allow you to continue your insurance coverage (but doesn’t have to pay for it).
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act(FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own serious medical needs, including those related to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth. You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
    • For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • If you were hurt while working or became sick as a result of your job, you may also be entitled to paid benefits and other protections through Workers’ Compensation.
  • If you lose your job due to your own medical needs, and are able to continue working, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Reasonable Accommodations and Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • The Minnesota Human Rights Act bans disability discrimination at almost all employers regardless of size. Should your disability require some changes to your position, your boss must provide you with a reasonable accommodation so that you can perform your job, unless it would be very difficult or expensive for them to do so. A reasonable accommodation can include anything from changes to your workspace to modifying your work schedule to restructuring your job.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which can include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a disability.
    • If you have a disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When a child or family member gets sick or injured—be it with a bad cold or a more serious illness or injury—you may need to take some time off from work to care for them. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.  

Taking Time Off from Work

  • If you work in certain cities in Minnesota, you may have the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care. 
  • If you work in Minneapolis, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 6 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
    • If your employer has 5 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of unpaid sick time per year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or another member of your household.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Saint Paul, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours you work. You can carry forward unused sick time and continue to earn sick time up to a total of 80 hours at any time.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • If you work in Duluth for an employer with 5 or more employees, you may have the right to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
    • If you are covered, you earn sick time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 50 hours you work, up to a maximum of 64 hours per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any other individual related by blood or whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship.
    • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
    • Sick time can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • The Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) is similar to the FMLA, but covers a few more workers. This law only covers new parents.
    • You are eligible for the MPLA if: 1) your workplace has 21 or more employees at any one site, and 2) you have worked for your employer at least half-time for 12 months.
    • If you are eligible, the MPLA gives you the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for prenatal care, the birth or adoption of a child, or for incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.
    • While you are on leave, your employer has to allow you to continue your insurance coverage (but doesn’t have to pay for it).
  • If you are covered, the FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. To qualify, you must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. Under the FMLA, covered family members include a worker’s son or daughter 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, and a parent.
    • The FMLA defines “son or daughter” to include a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. For more information about protections the FMLA provides for LGBT families, see here.
    • You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or you may work on a reduced schedule to care for a seriously ill family member.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to apply for Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Special Protections for Veterans’ and Military Families

  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and a close family member is, or was, in the Armed Services, you may be entitled to additional protections under the FMLA.
  • The FMLA provides special protections for service-connected injuries or illnesses. If you are the spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a veteran or a member of the Armed Services, including the National Guard and Reserves, you may be able to take military caregiver leave. You can take up to a total of 26 weeks of unpaid leave a year to take care of your military relative if he or she has a serious injury or illness stemming from his or her military service.
  • In addition to the ordinary protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if you have a parent, child, or spouse on or called to active duty service in a foreign country, you may be eligible for what is called “qualifying exigency” leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to address certain needs arising out of that active duty service. This leave allows you to take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year.
    • This leave is available to address many different types of needs, including:
      • tending to the needs of the children of a service member, such as arranging childcare, attending meetings, or enrolling the child in a new school
      • making legal or financial arrangements for a military member
      • spending time with a servicemember on a short-term rest and recuperation leave
      • arranging care for the parent of a servicemember when the parent is unable to care for himself or herself.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • Caregiver discrimination is illegal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Your employer cannot discriminate against you because you are a parent or legal guardian of a minor.
    • Several localities in Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, have also outlawed employment discrimination based on familial status. See here for a comprehensive list of localities that have outlawed caregiver discrimination. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill.  However, this law does not give relatives of a person with a disability the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

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Please note that this state-by-state guide is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of any one law described. It is possible that other provisions may apply to your specific circumstances or category of employment.

Note also that the information contained in this guide 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.

If you have additional questions about your rights, you can contact our free, confidential legal helpline.

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