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You are Here: Home > Breaks & Leave > Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence

Leave of Absence Definition

A leave of absence is when an employee takes employer-authorized time off from work, separate from the time off granted by other work-leave benefits (such as sick leave or vacation). There are two common types:

  • Medical leave of absence
  • Personal leave of absence

Leave of Absence Benefit

A leave of absence is among the so-called employee "fringe benefits". As with all fringe benefits, providing a leave of absence benefit is generally voluntary for employers, whether with or without pay.

If you qualify under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), then your employee rights entitle you to take up to a 12-week, unpaid, medical leave of absence to care for yourself or family members, without losing your job and benefits. The leave of absence benefit discussed in this article is separate from that provided under the FMLA.

In other words, except for the Family and Medical Leave Act (or a state law with equivalent or better provisions), there are no laws that generally require your employer to grant you a leave of absence benefit, even without pay.

Some states have laws that grant leave of absence benefits specifically to eligible employees who've become victims of crimes or domestic violence, so that the victims may take time off from work to attend to related matters. To find out if your state has such a law, start by contacting the relevant state department of labor or just consult an attorney.

If your employer has promised a leave of absence benefit to the class of employees to which you're assigned, then your employer must make good on that promise when the time comes, if you've met all conditions. In other words, you must follow your employer's rules to be entitled to take a leave of absence.

Because providing a leave of absence benefit is generally voluntarily for employers, they may set reasonable conditions and restrictions. For example, your employer likely may require you to exhaust your vacation and personal days off, before you take remaining days off as a personal leave of absence.

Employers typically dictate such rules in policy manuals. Many states consider policy manuals to be binding, implied contracts between employers and employees.

Subsequently, if you violate your employer's leave of absence policy, then your employer likely may "legally" take disciplinary action against you, up to and including firing you. But the courts typically consider all factors involved, to decide whether or not employers really had good cause to fire employees for company policy violation. Consult an attorney about that.

Read About Employee Benefits for information regarding avenues of relief, should your employer deprive you of the leave of absence benefit or any other employee benefit to which you're rightfully entitled by policy or law.

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