Q: I recently left my job to take care of my mother, who is quite sick and elderly. I applied for FMLA but was told my company did not offer FMLA. Isn’t it a federal law? I am considering legal action against my former employer. I worked for a small start-up in Cambridge.
A: I am sorry to hear about your mother. It sounds like it may have been a difficult decision to leave your job to care for your mother.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been providing employees time off since 1993. However, not all employees are eligible and not all employers have to comply. If your employer had under 50 employees (within a 75-mile radius), then your employer is not required to comply with FMLA. You did not share how many employees worked for your previous company but it sounds like it may have been fewer than 50 employees. If that is the case, that may be why your previous employer did not offer FMLA.
Additionally, not all employees are eligible for FMLA. An employee has to work for an employer who is required to offer FMLA. Further, the employee is required to have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and must have worked at a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles. Additionally, the employee must have worked at least 1250 hours in the prior 12 months before the leave. There are some exceptions but these requirements apply in most situations. The leave must also meet one of several reasons, but caring for an employee’s parent who has a serious health condition is a covered reason. Employees do not have to share specific medical information with their employer but they do have to share enough information so that the employer can verify that the condition qualifies as a “serious health condition.”
In January 1, 2021, many employees in Massachusetts will have more options. The new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave program will provide many employees with additional leave benefits. Employers and employees will begin funding the program in July, 2019, via a payroll tax. Almost all employees who are eligible to qualify for unemployment compensation will be eligible for this paid leave. The definition of family member is expanded under this law. Additionally, this law does not just apply to employers with 50 more employees, it applies to employers with just one employee. Depending upon the reason, up to 26 weeks of leave may be taken.
Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.