What Is FMLA and What Is It Used ForThe Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a powerful law that protects your rights to time off of work if you or a family member have a serious illness or condition. Despite being almost 20 years old, but surveys show that it still ranks as one of the most confusing (and frustrating) employment laws for employees to understand.

If you think that you might be eligible for FMLA, but don’t know where to start, read through for our four-part series on California employee rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Who Counts As Family Under FMLA?

The federal law limits you to taking time away from work to care for yourself, your spouse, parents, or children. California FMLA laws also protect employees that need time away to help a domestic partner.

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t cover in-laws. So, if your spouse’s parents become ill, he or she must be the one to take time off of work to care for them under FMLA.

Also, know that “children” generally means a child under the age of 18. FMLA can be applied to care for your son or daughter who is technically an adult, but only if the child is “incapable of self-care” because of a serious disability that impacts one of the “major life activities.”

What Are My Benefits Under FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act grants employees three basic benefits, including:

  • 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12 month period
  • At the end of your FMLA period, you can go back to your same job–or an equivalent
  • A continuation of your same health care benefits, without any gaps in coverage

While it’s comforting to know that you are able to get relief from a busy work schedule to care for yourself or a family member, there’s a lot to explore within these benefits. That includes possible ways and restrictions for using your 12 weeks of unpaid leave, various ways that your employer may calculate the 12-month period, and what your rights are when you return.

Additionally, California employees can benefit from the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and gives employees similar family leave rights as under FMLA.

Stay tuned to learn about your rights under FMLA and the differences between these laws to best care for yourself, or a family member, when dealing with health issues.