State Family and Medical Leave Laws

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees the right to take time off work, for specified reasons, if they work for a covered employer. (For information on the employees, employers, and reasons for leave covered by the FMLA, see Who Is Covered Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?) A number of states have adopted their own family and medical leave laws, and these laws often provide coverage beyond what the FMLA requires.

There are several types of state family and medical leave laws:

  • comprehensive family and medical leave laws are similar to the FMLA, in that they allow employees to take leave for health reasons or to care for an ailing family member
  • military family leave laws give employees with family members in the military the right to take some time off
  • pregnancy disability leave laws give women the right to time off while temporarily disabled by pregnancy and childbirth
  • adoption leave laws require employers to grant the same leave to adoptive parents that they make available to biological parents
  • small necessities laws require employers to allow time off for various family needs, and
  • domestic violence leave laws allow leave for issues relating to abuse.

Comprehensive Family and Medical Leave Laws

About a dozen states have laws that require employers to provide family and medical leave, for reasons similar to the FMLA. However, these laws differ from the FMLA in the following important ways:

  • Some apply to smaller employers (the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees).
  • Some cover more family members (such as siblings or domestic partners).
  • Some allow longer periods of leave (beyond the 12 weeks allowed by the FMLA for most types of leave).

Military Family Leave Laws

Some states give employees the right to take time off for certain reasons relating to a family member's active military duty. The FMLA also requires this type of leave; state laws may go beyond the FMLA by, for example, not putting any limits on the reasons for which an employee can take leave during a family member's deployment. (The FMLA allows employees to take leave only for certain reasons -- called "qualifying exigencies" -- that are spelled out in the law.)

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Some states require employers to provide time off for pregnancy disability: the length of time when a women is temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. Typically, these laws don't provide for a set amount of time off per year or per pregnancy. Instead, they require employers to provide either a "reasonable" amount of leave or leave for the period of disability, often with a maximum time limit.

Adoption Leave

A handful of states require employers to give adoptive parents the same leave they make available to biological parents. Generally, these laws don't require an employer to offer parental leave. However, those that do must make it equally available to adoptive parents.

Small Necessities Laws

Some states require employers to give leave for certain family needs, such as attending school functions, taking a child to routine dental or medical appointments, or helping with eldercare.

Domestic Violence Leave Laws

Some states require employers to allow time off for issues relating to domestic abuse. For example, an employee may be entitled to leave to seek a restraining order, get medical care or counseling, or relocate.

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