- State and federal laws can protect Texas workers when they need to take a leave of absence.Justice image by MVit from Fotolia.com
Employees in the state of Texas can be protected by state and federal laws if they need to take a leave of absence from work for certain qualifying conditions, such as the birth of a child. The payment terms during those leaves of absence can vary based on legal requirements and on an employer’s employment policy. When possible, employees should be aware of leave of absence laws and employer policies before taking a leave from work. Employees can discuss questions and concerns with human resources personnel.
Family and Medical Leave Act
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees who meet the eligibility requirements to take up to 12 work weeks off in a year for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a qualifying immediate family member with a serious health condition, or if the employee develops a serious health condition. Employees also can take a leave of up to 26 weeks to care for a qualifying military veteran.
When taking FMLA leave, an employee does not have to take all 12 weeks consecutively. At the end of the FMLA leave, employees have the right to return to the same or equal position, benefits and pay.
To be eligible for FMLA coverage, employees must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months out of the previous year (these months do not need to be consecutive).
Additionally, the employer must employ 50 or more employees from within 75 miles of the worksite in order for the employer to be eligible. Employees must provide 30 days' advance notice (if possible) and employees might need to provide certification from a medical authority to leave or to return.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal act that impacts Texas residents who take a leave of absence from work in order to fulfill their duty to the U.S. Armed Forces. USERRA protects uniformed service personnel in all branches of the Armed Forces, including the Army, the Reserves, the Coast Guard and the Navy.
According to USERRA, an employee should be able to take time away from work, as determined by the Armed Services commitment, without penalty from his employer. The employee should be able to return (within an amount of time required by USERRA) to work in the same (or comparable) position and receive the same benefits, salary and seniority as he would have had prior to leaving to fulfill military service. The employer also is prohibited from discriminating against an employee for reasons related to the military leave.
Texas State Leave Laws
- While there are some circumstances in which an employer can be required to pay an employee during her qualifying leave, there also are situations where an employer has the liberty to develop its own leave policy, which might or might not offer payment for some leaves.
For example, according to Texas Government Code § 661.909 Leave Without Pay; Leave of Absence, a state agency or higher education institution can allow a leave without pay if all of an employee’s paid leave entitlements have been used, and if the employer has an unpaid leave policy for qualifying circumstances. This unpaid leave cannot exceed one year and guarantee of employment on return can be subject to an employer’s financial constraints.
The Texas Election Code finds employers guilty of a Class C misdemeanor if they do not allow paid time off for employees to vote. Employees also must be allowed time to attend state conventions if they are delegates. It is a felony to impose any sort of threat or condition against voting based on political beliefs.