Part of a manager's job is to implement an effective employee leave program, which requires a functional understanding of federal and state leave laws. While some employers offer paid vacation and sick days as employee benefits, certain types of unpaid leave are mandatory in accordance with state and federal employment laws. FindLaw's section on Leave Laws contains articles and resources to help you understand your legal obligations with respect to employee leave, such as time off for voting and jury duty. In this section you can also find articles about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and military service and re-employment rights.
Employee Leave Policies
There are certain employee leave policies that employers are required to implement and others that are optional. For example, employers are not required to offer paid time off for vacation. However, if they do offer paid time off, it is considered to be compensation and employees must be paid out on it if the employment ends. Leave policies that employers must implement involve allowing employees to join the military, serve on a jury, or vote.
Certain employers - ones with 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius - must also comply with the FMLA. This federal law requires employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a family member with a serious mental or physical health condition, or to take care of his or her own serious mental or physical health condition. Each state may also have its own mandatory leave laws, so it's important to check the laws of your state to see what laws apply to your business.
There is a federal law that protects military service members' jobs in the event that they choose to or are required to fulfill their military service. More specifically, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Relief Act of 1994 (USERRA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who serve in the military, and provides rights of reinstatement once they complete their military service. All employers are required to comply with the USERRA, regardless of the company's size. The law doesn't require an employer to pay the employee while he or she serves in the military.
The aspect of the law that requires reinstatement of employment does have certain limitations. The employee is required to give advance notice of military training or service, and the cumulative military leave must not exceed 5 years. In addition, the employee must apply for reemployment within a specified time and must have been discharged under honorable conditions. There are also certain instances in which an employer does not have to rehire a military service member. For example, if the reinstatement would create an undue hardship for the employer or if the employment was so brief that the employee would not have a reasonable expectation to return to the position.
Hiring an Attorney
If you have questions about federal or state leave laws, or you would like to make sure your policies and practices concerning employee leave are in compliance with federal and state laws, you may want to contact an employment law attorney for guidance.