Bereavement Leave - Funeral Leave
Bereavement Leave Definition
Employee bereavement leave is less often referred to as funeral leave. Both terms mean employee time off from work to attend the visitation, wake or funeral of a deceased person.
Bereavement Leave Benefits
Bereavement leave benefits are a matter of agreement between employers and employees or employers and labor unions that represent employees.
In other words, there are no Federal employment or labor laws that require U.S. employers to provide bereavement leave, whether with or without pay.
Like many benefits that employers have traditionally provided, providing bereavement leave is voluntary in the absence of employment contracts that dictate otherwise, such as collective bargaining agreements.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you might be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work to care for a dying family member; but, the FMLA does not specifically provide for bereavement leave.
Despite that it's not required by Federal law, many employers still provide bereavement leave benefits, just as they provide other voluntary benefits to attract and retain employees. The typical bereavement leave benefit is from one to three days off from work.
Because providing employee bereavement leave is voluntary for employers, they may set conditions and restrictions. For example, employers may determine for whose funerals employees may take bereavement leave, such as for immediate family members only, and whether or not to pay employees for their time off from work. Employers often pay salaried employees while they're on bereavement leave, but they might not pay hourly employees.
New York State enacted a funeral and bereavement leave law in 2010. The law requires an employer who provides employee time off for the death of a spouse or a spouse's relative, to also provide equal employee time off for the death of a same-sex partner or a partner's relative. As its wording indicates, the law applies only to employers who grant spousal bereavement leave benefits in the first place.
Employers typically document the "rules" in policy manuals that they make available to employees. Many states consider employment-related policy manuals to be binding, implied contracts between employers and their employees.
Subsequently, if your employer does provide a bereavement leave benefit per documented policy to the class of employees of which you are a part, then you are likely to be "legally" entitled to take it if you follow the rules.
But, by the same token, if you violate your employer's documented bereavement leave policy, then your employer will just as likely have the right to take disciplinary action against you, such as depriving you of bereavement leave pay and even firing you.
However, if you challenge your firing in court, the court will consider the whole picture to determine whether or not your employer really had good cause to fire you solely for company policy violation. See a lawyer for more information.
Read About Employee Benefits for information regarding avenues of relief, should your employer deprive you of the bereavement leave benefit or any other employee benefit to which you're rightfully entitled by law or documented policy.