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Grandparents and FMLA leave

Grandparents are playing an increasingly important role in the lives of their grandchildren. Many want to be active parts of their grandchildren's lives from the moment they are born. Some California grandparents have even taken on the role of fulltime caregiver for their grandchildren if the child's parents are unable to parent. As grandparents become a bigger part in their grandchildren's lives, some may be wondering if these grandparents have certain legal rights -- including the right to take leave following the birth of a grandchild.

Under California and federal employment laws, employees can take leave following the birth of a child. In particular the Family Medical Leave Act allows new parents up to 12 weeks off following the birth of a child. During this time the employer must hold the employee's job but does not have to pay the employee. However, do these rights extend to grandparents? Many believe that they do not.

Grandparents can take leave from their jobs if their employers allow it, but their jobs would not be protected by FMLA. Therefore, the employer would not have to pay the employee or hold open the employee's job. However, this could change under a few circumstances.

If the grandchild was born to a minor, the grandparent may qualify for FMLA leave to take care of the grandparent's child following the birth. This is allowed since FMLA allows parents to take time to care for minor children. Furthermore, if the grandparent is standing in as the parent for the grandchild than FMLA may also apply. Here the child's biological parents are not taking care of the child, but the grandparent is. The FMLA is often riddled with rules and exceptions that can make it difficult for California employees to know exactly what their rights are. Employees who need to take medical leave or leave following the birth of a child should make sure they know all their legal rights.

Source: Business Management, "FMLA leave to pitch in with newborn grandchild's care?," April 21, 2014

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