Small Business Absent With Leave

 The best defense is to have the right policy in place here are four tips to help avoid minefields.


It’s rarely easy for a small business to work around the loss of an employee who’s out on a leave of absence. But you may have to grant that request, under state or federal law. Attorney Emma Luevano explains.

A leave-of-absence request is always a headache. But because denying a request that is valid and lawful can result in litigation, it’s important to know exactly what you must provide in the way of leave, and to develop an appropriate leave policy.

In general, federal and state laws require that you provide your employees time off for personal illness, to attend to the illness of a family member, a child’s birth or adoption.

But there are often overlapping federal and state leave laws. Occasionally, they even conflict!

While specifics vary from state to state and according to circumstances, you can readily avoid misunderstanding by deciding in advance what your company’s leave policy will be. Once you have a policy that conforms to federal and state laws, distribute it in writing to limit the possibility of misunderstanding.

Here are four tips to help avoid minefields:

1. Find out whether your company is covered under federal or state leave laws.

Federal family and medical leave laws cover employers with 50 or more employees, and public employers of any  size. Many state leave laws mirror federal law, and also cover only companies with a minimum of 50 employees.

But don’t count on it. You may have to provide certain types of leave even with considerably fewer employees. For example, some states require that even employers with very few employees (fewer than 15) provide women leaves for pregnancy-related conditions.

Next page : Minefields 2 through 4

Emma Luevano
Emma Luevano
Emma Luevano is a regular contributor to on legal issues relevant to small and medium business. She is a partner at the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP ( who advises and represents management on labor and employment matters, including sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, public policy violations, wrongful termination, class action wage and hour issues,and retaliation.

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