Family and Medical Leave in Washington Lawyers

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What is the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was an important step in forcing employers to grant time off to employees with family and medical issues.  Whether you are sick yourself, or caring for a sick family member (parent, child, or spouse only), or have a newborn or adopted child, the FMLA will protect your job while you are away.  To qualify for FMLA protections, you must meet these requirements:

  1. The employer must have 50 or more employees.
  2. The employee must have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.

If those two requirements are met, then the employer must grant 12 weeks of unpaid family/medical leave per year to its employees.  Family/medical leave is defined as needed time off to care for your own medical condition, or those of a family member, or having a newborn (or adopted) child come into your household.

Do Washington Laws Effect My Benefits Under the FMLA?

Very little, at least for now.  Because the FMLA is a Federal Law, it applies to every state, and supercedes whatever laws the individual states have on the books.  This means that any employer covered by the FMLA must comply with the law that provides the greater benefit to the employee.  So while the states can ADD further rights, they cannot take away any of the ones provided.

In the case of Washington State, its previous laws regarding medical leave were exceedingly narrow (medical leave only when a child was sick with a terminal illness, and even then only allowing 6 weeks a year, for example), so when the FMLA came along, Washington's Family Leave laws were almost completely superceded.  They remain on the books, however, because if the FMLA is ever repealed they will immediately go back into effect.   

The only aspect of Washington Law that is still in effect today is it's reinstatement policy, which is somewhat more generous then the FMLA.  They state that an employee has an absolute right to return to work at equal pay and benefits, within 20 mile of previous work site.  If the employee is no longer physically capable of performing the job, the employee must be transfered to another job at equal pay and benefits that he can perform.   

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If you or a loved one has fallen ill, and are in need of medical help, you shouldn't have to sacrifice job security in order to take care of them.  It is essential that you maximize your rights under the law to protect your job.  An employment attorney will be familiar with both State and Federal Law, and can help you get the most benefit from your employer, and the inevitable problems with employer's health insurance and coverage.  

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Last Modified: 11-30-2009 11:04 AM PST

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