UFCW 21 - A Voice for Working America

Family and Medial Leave

FMLA and Family Care Act

Unions fought hard for the passage of the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the 1990s and the more recently our state's Family Care Act.

Under FMLA your rights include:

  • The right to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave each year on a consecutive or intermittent basis.
  • The right to take up to 12 weeks of family leave each year to care for a seriously ill child, parent, or spouse.
  • The right to a part-time work schedule when necessitated by medical problems or to care for an ill family member.
  • The right to decline a light-duty job for the first 12 weeks of an injury or illness. (If on an L&I claim, you must accept light duty or risk losing Workers Compensation benefits.) Most importantly, the FMLA prohibits employers from penalizing employees who miss work for qualified reasons. FMLA absences cannot be used as points under an attendance policy, as a reason for denying a pay increase or promotion, or in any other negative manner.
  • The right to return to your job after FMLA leave.

You have these rights if you meet all the following criteria:

  • Work for a private employer (including non-profit organizations) which has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, or work for a public employer including federal, state, city, and local agencies and schools.
  • Have worked for this employer for at least 12 months or 52 weeks (does not have to be consecutive).
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months.

You may take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid FMLA leave in each 12-month period for the following reasons:

  • Medical leave - A serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job.
  • Family leave - Need to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent.
  • Childbirth and Newborn Care leave - Childbirth or need to care for a newborn child up to age one.
  • Adoption and Foster Placement leave - Placement of a child with you for adoption or foster care.

Washington State workers are also protected by the Washington Family Care Act, which became law thanks to the support of labor unions and community allies.

The Family Care Act allows employees to use sick leave or other paid time off to care for spouses, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, and adult children with disabilities, just as they would be able to use the time if they were sick themselves. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries provides on-line information about the Family Care Act.

This is a brief overview of family leave protections. UFCW 21 helps enforce this important law and has protected many members' jobs using FMLA. Contact your Steward or Union Representative if you have any questions.

Care for a Sick Family Member

A lot of people are getting sick. And state law helps you take care of sick family members with pay if you have access to sick leave or PTO.

The Washington State Family Care Act was passed in 2002 with the strong support of unions like UFCW 21. It extends Family & Medical Leave rights by ensuring that workers who have paid leave (PTO or sick leave) can tap into that reserve while providing care for a sick family member in the same way they would use it to pay for their own sick days.

So the next time you need to call in to care for a sick kid or a family member with a serious health condition, remember this law. Ask your Union Rep for details if you have questions.

Sign up to get our newsletter and updates by email:

Blue + Yellow = Green Be green and get your news electronically instead of on paper.