These days, economic realities demand that most parents work out of the home in addition to caring for their families. For many parents, balancing work and family responsibilities is a constant struggle - nearly half of American parents worry about losing their jobs because of family obligations, according to the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index.
No one understands this struggle more than parents whose children experience serious injuries or illnesses. Often, these children require a level of care that gets in the way of a full-time job. The good news: There are legal protections for caretakers who have to take time off work. The bad news: Some employers abuse federal employment laws and try to retaliate.
Your right to family and medical leave
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers with at least 50 employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a child or immediate family member with a serious health condition. If you return to work within those 12 weeks, your employer must give you your job back.
Fortunately for Colorado residents, our state law extends these protections even further. In 2013, the state expanded the definition of family members for whom an employee may take medical leave. Colorado workers may take their 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for relatives by:
- Legal custody
- Civil union
- Committed, live-in relationship
Unfortunately, there are no similar protections for parents who need to take a day off to care for a child who has a cold, flu or other common illness. It is best to discuss those matters with your employer.
Protecting your employment rights
Too often, employers retaliate against workers who make use of FMLA leave. While it is understandable that employers need workers to be present whenever possible to keep things running smoothly, no one should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a loved one.