The Family and Medical Leave Law
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect in 1993, intended to provide a means for employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. It does this by saying that workers are legally entitled to take unpaid leave because of any of the following: the birth, care, or adoption or foster care of a child; the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or the employee’s own serious health condition. This law also gives returning employees the right to go back to their old jobs, or to equivalent positions, without being penalized. The Department of Labor can investigate FMLA claims and enforce the terms of the law. Because the FMLA doesn’t cover all workplaces and requires an employer to grant only unpaid leave (and then only under certain circumstances), your union contract will likely contain better provisions. And if this is the case, the rights in your union contract will have priority over those in this federal law.
—Adapted from The Union Member's Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer