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Can your employer deny you leave to care for a new foster child?

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Employment Law

The arrival of a new foster child is a significant and often stressful transition for any family. As a result, taking time away from work to focus on bonding and adjustment is generally wise, whenever doing so is possible. 

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain protections to employees who need time off for qualifying family and medical reasons. One of the qualifying scenarios governed by FMLA involves the care of a new foster child. As such, if you are a foster parent, understanding your rights under FMLA can help to ensure that you get the leave to which you are rightfully entitled. 

Understanding FMLA

FMLA is a federal law, although its protections have been expanded by various states. At minimum, the protections afforded by FMLA allow eligible employees to take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific family and medical reasons, while enjoying protections against termination or adverse employment action related to their request for leave and/or their decision to take it. 

To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Work for a specific kind of employer: FMLA applies to public agencies, schools and companies with 50 or more employees.
  • Employment duration: You must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, although these 12 months do not need to be consecutive.
  • Hours worked: You must have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately prior to the start of your FMLA leave.

Before you are approved for leave, your employer will ask you for proof of your new foster placement. You’ll want to have documentation to this effect at the ready. 

If you meet these eligibility criteria, your employer cannot legally deny you FMLA leave to care for a new foster child. Denying FMLA leave to an eligible employee can lead to legal repercussions for the employer, including potential lawsuits for violating federal law.