While some employers offer generous benefits packages that include personal allowances to take time off for many reasons, nearly all employees may take time off for certain protected reasons, according to federal law. If an employee requests unpaid time off for one of these protected reasons, the employer must allow it in most instances, and may not retaliate against an employee who enforces his or her rights.
Unfortunately, some employers are either ignorant of the law or unconcerned with following it, and may punish an employee anyway, sometimes even terminating an employee who takes protected time off. Federal law (as well as some state-specific laws) guarantees that most employees may ask for time off to care for a family member in need or to recover from a serious illness. These laws also protect the employment of military service members who must leave to on a call of duty, as well as guarantee that an employee may take time off to vote or serve on a jury.
Should an employer fire an employee who takes this time off, he or she may face hefty fines and mandatory reinstatement of the terminated employee. However, employees who receive this unfair treatment must take action to fight back, as these consequences are not automatic. If you believe that your employer wrongfully terminated you because you took time off for a protected reason, you must build a strong case demonstrating that you acted within your rights. If, for instance, you take time off to vote on the other side of town at you assigned voting station, but do not return to work for several days, it is unlikely for a court to uphold your right to take that time beyond the reasonable number of hours it takes to commute to your station and vote.
You can help protect your rights and the rights of all employees with a carefully constructed legal strategy that makes use of all your resources, pushing back against unfair practices in the workplace.