Feds take steps to inform employees of their rights in the workplace

The U.S. Department of Labor launched a new tool for employees to help them understand how they can use the federal law to take time off from work to care for a family member or themselves and will host a webinar on Wednesday, June 27 to explain how to use this tool.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — passed by Congress and signed into law in 1993 — most people working for a company with at least 50 employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to manage a serious health condition for family members or themselves and their jobs are protected.

Under new interpretations of FMLA adopted by the Department of Labor in the summer of 2010 same-sex parents have new rights under the law. Under the new interpretation if you or a domestic partner are raising a minor who is not a biological or adoptive child you may now use FMLA to care for that child or to spend time with a newborn, foster or adopted minor.

The new interpretations cover same-sex couples living in jurisdictions that do not permit second parent adoption. Currently more than half of the LGBT population lives in a place where second parent adoption is either uncertain or explicitly prohibited according to the Movement Advancement Project. But the change also helps other family configurations – such as when a grandparent or uncle is raising a child. The overall effect is that those who are caring for a child have access to FMLA leave time.

On Wednesday, June 27 the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor will host this free webinar to explain this change and other aspects of FMLA to educate employees across the country about their rights. You can register by clicking here to participate in Wednesday’s webinar.

In addition to the webinar the Department of Labor released an easy to read short booklet on FMLA for employees to use. To download the booklet or order copies visit the Department of Labor’s website.