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Must we grant time off for employee to care for a grandparent?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. Our company has 30 full-time employees. One of our employees who is working on a key project has asked us for time off to take care of her grandfather, who has cancer, on days after he’s gone through chemotherapy. We know other family members are available to provide this care, and we are worried that it will be a hardship to have the employee away from work. Do we have to give the employee the time off?

A. Until recently, the answer would have been “no.” However, amendments to a Minnesota law that went into effect Aug. 1, 2013, mean that if the employee has worked for your company for a year and has accrued sick time available, you will have to allow her to use her own sick time to care for her grandfather.

Note: Your company is too small to have any leave obligations to the employee under the federal FMLA, which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. However, Minnesota has a law that requires employers with at least 21 employees to permit eligible employees to use their sick time to care for an ill or injured covered family member. An employee is eligible if she or he has worked for the employer as least half-time for at least 12 months.

Historically, the Minnesota law only allowed an eligible employee to take sick time off to care for the employee’s child.

The law has been amended, however, and now provides that an employee may use his or her own sick time to care for the employee’s minor child, an adult child under the age of 20 who is still in high school, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a stepparent or, germane to your situation, a grandparent.

An eligible employee can use his or her  personal sick leave time-off benefits under the law, but may not use any short-term disability or similar insurance benefits. In addition, an employer can limit time off taken under the law for absences unrelated to a minor child, provided the limit is not less than 160 hours in 12 months.

The amended law is set forth at Minn. Stat. Sect. 181.9413.

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