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10 Leave of Absence Requirements

Employers are urged to check specific laws and develop policies and training in accordance with their applicable requirements.

There are several federal, state, and local laws that require employers to grant employees job-protected leave under certain circumstances. These laws generally define the situations in which employees may take leave, whether the time is paid or unpaid, as well as requirements for employee eligibility and advance notice.

The following are 10 common leave of absence requirements:

1. Family and Medical. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for their serious health condition, a family member’s serious health condition, the birth or adoption of a child or certain family military situations. The law generally covers employers with 50 or more employees, but several states have enacted their own family and medical leave laws, some of which cover smaller employers and or permit leave under additional circumstances. If you are an employer with fewer than 50 employees and choose to offer a medical leave, it is a best practice to have a written policy in place along with standardized forms and procedures for requesting and tracking leave. In addition, supervisors should be trained how to appropriately respond to leave requests.

2. Military. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act requires all employers to grant unpaid leave to employees who serve in the military. Some states have also enacted their own military leave laws, some of which permit employees to take time off when their spouse is on leave from deployment or to care for a family member who was injured during active duty.

3. Small Necessities. More than a dozen states have adopted laws that provide protected leave for employees to tend to certain routine family matters, such as school activities or parent-teacher conferences. These are commonly known as “small necessities” laws, but are sometimes called school activities leave or parental leave laws. Most small necessities laws grant a certain number of hours of leave annually, per month or per school year. Tracking this leave can sometimes be a challenge since it is often taken in less than full-day increments. However, doing so can serve to document compliance with the law and help to prevent abuse.

4. Voting. At least 30 states and even some local jurisdictions have adopted laws governing voting leave. Of the states that require time off to vote, 22 states require the time to be paid. In some cases, voting leave is only required if an employee does not have sufficient time outside of work hours to vote. Some states also permit employers to specify the hours that employees can be absent for voting purposes, such as limiting voting leave to the beginning or the end of the employee’s shift.

5. Jury Duty. Under both federal and state law, jury duty is mandatory and employers are prohibited from disciplining or otherwise retaliating against employees who serve on a jury. Additionally, some states require employers to pay employees for time spent serving as a juror. Of the states that impose a pay requirement, some permit the employer to pay the difference between payments received for serving as a juror and the employee’s regular wages.

6. Pregnancy. A number of states require employers to grant leave for pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related medical conditions. In some of these states, leave entitlement is limited to those who are disabled by pregnancy. For instance, California requires employers to provide up to four months of job-protected leave for employees disabled by pregnancy. Absent any specific state requirement, an employer is generally required to treat pregnancy as it does any other temporary disability. Therefore, if an employer provides leave for other temporary disabilities, it must provide leave for pregnancy and related medical conditions under the same terms and conditions.

7. Sick. One state and five local jurisdictions have enacted laws that require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees: Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland (effective Jan. 1, 2014), and the District of Columbia. Generally, these laws define which employees are eligible, the circumstances in which employees may take paid sick leave, the amount of leave available per year, how sick leave is to be accrued and whether it carries over from year to year. If you offer sick leave, it is a best practice to have a written policy that communicates company expectations regarding attendance and outlines the amount of sick leave offered, how it will accrue, call-in procedures, and documentation requirements, for example, a doctor’s note/medical certification.’

One state and five local jurisdictions have enacted laws that require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees: Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland (effective Jan. 1, 2014), and the District of Columbia.

8. Organ/Bone Marrow Donation. Some states have enacted laws that entitle employees to leave to donate an organ, bone marrow or blood. In some of these states, the leave must be paid.

9. Crime Victims. In some states, if an employee or his or her covered family member is a victim of a crime or domestic violence, he or she may be entitled to time off to be present at legal and court proceedings, obtain an order of protection, seek medical treatment or receive counseling services. It should also be noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued guidance on how nondiscrimination laws may cover applicants and employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. For more information, visit the EEOC website at:

10. Emergency Response. In some states, employees who are volunteer firefighters or emergency rescue workers are entitled to leave when responding to an emergency call prior reporting to work, or in some cases, during work hours. Generally, these laws require the employee to notify the company that he or she has been dispatched to an emergency as soon as is practical. The employee may also be required to provide proof that they responded to an emergency call, such as a statement from the chief responding officer. Some states also permit certain employees to take leave for fire or law enforcement training.

It’s important to note that your state or local jurisdiction may have additional leave of absence requirements, above and beyond the summary of requirements provided here. Employers are urged to check their specific laws and develop policies and training in accordance with their applicable requirements.

Rebecca Morris is the content development manager for ADP HR411. Whether it’s HR, payroll or benefits, ADP provides the services and insights that let you focus on what matters: growing your franchise. For more information, contact ADP Vice President, Franchises & Affiliations Deepak Mehta at 973-712-3367 or

Disclaimer: This content provides practical information concerning the subject matter covered and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal advice or other professional services. ADP does not give legal advice as part of its services. While every effort is made to provide current information, the law changes regularly and laws may vary depending on the state or municipality. This material is made available for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgment. You should review applicable law in your jurisdiction and consult experienced counsel for legal advice.


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