Siblings are included in the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in some circumstances.
The FMLA, enacted in 1993, provides for eligible workers to take unpaid leave for up to 12 workweeks per year because of their own serious health condition or to care for their spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition. Siblings have never been explicitly included in these protections. However, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, which implements the FMLA, has clarified that siblings are protected in certain cases.
The Department has clarified the definition of “son or daughter” in two ways that benefit families who work together to care for a family member with a disability:
First, the Department has clarified that “son or daughter” includes both children under the age of 18, and adult children who are incapable of self care because of a physical or mental disability.
Second, “son or daughter” has been clarified by the Department as including individuals for whom the worker seeking leave is acting “in loco parentis,” which means “in the place of a parent.” This may include siblings who have day-to-day responsibility for caring for the child or adult with a disability.
With these detailed updates from the Department of Labor, it is clear that otherwise-eligible employees who are siblings with the day-to-day responsibility of caring for a brother or sister, including an adult brother or sister incapable of self-care due to a disability, are protected under the FMLA when they must take leave from work to care for their sibling.
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