Taking sick leave could be one of your rights as an employee in the state of Alabama. Although Alabama does not have a statewide medical leave law, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to give time off to certain eligible employees. Yet most private employers in the state do not legally have to offer sick leave benefits, paid or unpaid. Discover the rules under broad employment laws, and inquire at your specific place of employment for more details.
Federal Sick Leave Laws
The main federal sick leave law is the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act entitles certain employees to take sick leave for medical and family reasons without the risk of losing their jobs. FMLA does not ensure paid sick leave, but it does protect unpaid sick leave for valid reasons. Eligible employees can take as much as 12 workweeks of sick leave within a yearlong period for approved reasons.
- The birth of a new child within one year of birth
- The placement of a new child with the family via adoption or foster care
- The serious medical condition of a spouse, child, or parent
- A serious medical condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job
- A qualifying circumstance due to the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member
FMLA may also entitle eligible workers to 26 protected workweeks of sick leave within a 12-month period if the employee needs to leave to care for a covered military member or service member with a serious injury. The military member must be the employee’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin for this rule to apply.
Qualifying for FMLA Sick Leave
The only employers that must follow the rules of FMLA sick leave are those with at least 50 employees. If your employer must abide by the unpaid protected sick leave rules of FMLA, you could be eligible for these benefits in Alabama if you have worked with that employer for at least 12 months. You must have also worked at least 1,250 hours in those 12 months to qualify. If you are eligible for sick leave and you take it according to your rights, your employer must allow you to return to your former position without penalties or retaliation.
State Sick Leave Laws
Unlike most states, Alabama does not have a family or medical sick leave law. Employers with fewer than 50 employees, therefore, do not need to offer any type of sick leave benefits to their employees. Those with 50 or more must at least obey the requirements under the FMLA. It is up to each individual employer to offer sick leave benefits outside of the minimum federal requirements. If your employer does offer sick leave benefits, however, it must uphold its promises as stated in the employee handbook. Otherwise, you could have a claim for unpaid wages or wrongful termination against your employer.
Alabama does have reinstatement rules that apply to certain U.S. military members. National Guard members who must attend state active duty for longer than 30 days will have leave and reinstatement rights, as long as they return within five years. Alabama laws also allow employees to request paid leave for jury duty, as well as up to one hour (unpaid) to vote in elections.