In the legal sense, bereavement leave refers to the time an employee takes away from work due to the death of a close family member. This time is typically used to grieve the loss of a loved one, plan the funeral arrangements, or attend a wake or a shiva. This time may also be used to take care of important, pressing matters such as the estate of the deceased and other necessary arrangements.

Currently, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay for time not worked, and this includes funerals. Bereavement leave is usually an agreement between the employer and the employee. Oregon, however, became the first and only state since 2014 to require employers with 25 or more employees to allow qualifying employees to take bereavement leave following the death of a family member. Employees in all states are able to use 13 days of sick leave for bereavement purposes.

Which Family Members are Part of the Immediate Family?

For the sake of the employment law, family members that are part of an employee’s immediate family include:

  • Parents, stepparents, and in-laws;
  • Spouse;
  • Domestic partner;
  • Children and stepchildren;
  • Siblings, in-laws, and step-siblings;
  • Grandparents and grandchildren; and
  • An adult who stood in loco parentis to the employee when he or she was a child.

Can Bereavement Leave Be Taken When There is a Death of a Non-Family Member?

It is possible for an employee to take time off for the death of a non-family member, but this will depend on the employer. Another factor that may affect the likelihood bereavement leave will be granted is whether the employee is a full-time or part-time employee. Commonly, employers will typically offer this type of benefit to full-time employees.

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What About Additional Time-Off?

Some companies allow additional non-paid time off for employees who are grieving the loss of a loved one. If a company will not grant more leave, it may be possible for the employee to use accrued sick time to take leave from work.

Employees are entitled to use up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave annually, for bereavement and family care. However, it is important that you examine your employment contract or your employee handbook for more information, as employers may grant more time than required by law.

There are also other available leave options, and an employment attorney will be able to review your employment contract and advise you of your best course of action to get you the leave you need.

Should I Seek Legal Assistance If I Need Help with Bereavement Leave?

The last thing anyone wants to deal with following the death of a loved one, is an employment issue. If you have questions about bereavement leave, an experienced employment attorney in your area will provide guidance, and help make taking the time off that you need, much easier.