Under the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), New York workers have the federal protection to take unpaid leave from their job for a family or medical reason without fear of being penalized or fired by their employer.

In New York, FMLA is the only law covering private sector employees taking leave from work. However, state workers and some local government workers do have some additional guidelines and protections regarding paid or unpaid leave for a job.

What FMLA Covers

Under the FMLA, employees can take as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to take care of their own serious medical condition, that of an immediate family member or in if they welcome newborn or adopted child into their family. Workers can also take as many as 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a family member with a medical condition resulting from service in the US military.

The 12 weeks of leave are the most an employee can take each year under FMLA. The leave could be continual or taken from time to time if medically necessary. The law states that the company must restore the worker to their job, or to a job that is equal in pay, benefits, working conditions, and seniority at the conclusion of the leave.

Who Qualifies for FMLA Leave?

To be eligible for medical leave in New York or any other state, an employee have serious medical condition, typically described as hospital treatment or continuing outpatient treatment from a doctor. In general, if an employee is disabled for three days or more, has pursued medical treatment or is on a treatment regimen, the situation will qualify under the FMLA.

In order to fall under the auspices of the FMLA in New York, an employer must have 50 or more employees or workers living within 75 miles of the main office. For the employee to be covered, they must have been employed by the business for a minimum of twelve months and must have been employed at least 1,250 hours for the company, neither of which need be continuous.

If a worker is qualified and wishes to take leave, the FMLA states that a worker must give 30-days notice if the need for leave is expected. For instance, if a worker has an upcoming surgery or is pregnant and wishes to take leave after giving birth.

A worker must also supply the company with enough information for the company to understand that the leave may fall under FMLA. The company can require a doctor’s certification to validate the necessity for leave. The company may also pay for a second medical opinion if it has questions about the original validation. A company can also occasionally ask the worker to recertify their leave or ask for regular updates.

Finally, a worker may request to use accumulated paid vacation or sick time as part of their FMLA-protected leave. A company is also permitted to require their workers to use accrued time as part of their leave.

Addendum to FMLA in New York State

While New York doesn’t have much in the way of additional protections for medical leave, it does expand on the law for family and other reasons.

According to FMLA/NY law, any company that allows workers to take leave for the birth of their child must also extend the same leave for an adoption. Also, an adoptive mother or father is not eligible for childcare leave if the child is the minimum age for going to public school.

New York law also extends leave for the donation of bone marrow, blood or organs. When a worker gives bone marrow, a leave needs to be provided to them for up to 24 hours if medically necessary, with the company able to requesting verification. The state also allows for a worker to take a total of up to 3 hours leave to donate blood in a calendar year.

New York also makes a special concession for military leave, permitting an employee to take up to ten days of unpaid leave when their spouse is on leave from deployment to a military conflict.

While the state doesn’t provide leave for bereavement, New York law does state that if a company offers bereavement or funeral leave for the death of a close relative – it must extend the same benefits to workers in a “committed” same-sex relationship, defined as in a similar relationship to spouses.
New York does not have a maternity leave law, but new mothers may be eligible to receive disability benefits for up to 26 weeks if a doctor determines that she cannot physically work.

FMLA NY Leave for State Workers

Under New York Law, state workers can use accrued sick leave for their own illness or disability including pregnancy and childbirth. For medical issues the family, state workers can take up to 15 days of sick leave in a 12-month period. Disabled state workers can take up to 26 days of sick leave in a 12-month period to acquire and educate a service animal as directed by a medical professional. Valid medical proof of this type of leave may be demanded by a company.

State workers who donate organs or bone marrow is eligible for leave under New York/FMLA law. When a worker donates bone marrow, they must take a paid leave of absence, for as long as a week if medically necessary. When a worker donates an organ, they can take a paid leave up to 30 days. The worker must provide a minimum of 14 days written notice for either situation.


New York City (NYC) also makes several stipulations for city workers that add on to FMLA protections. FMLA/NYC guidelines call for basic health coverage, life insurance and other benefits to be extended for city worker for up to 12 weeks, which includes both worker and eligible dependents.

FMLA/NYC laws also say that city workers can extend these benefits beyond 12 weeks under the City’s Special Leave of Absence Coverage (SLOAC) in certain special circumstances.