Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year without any concerns of losing their job.

However, even if you qualify for FMLA and you’re not supposed to be a victim of discrimination, this could still come into play. And if it does, it’s critical that you know the steps you can take to protect your legal rights.

If you’re interested in taking FMLA leave, here are some steps you should follow:

  • Check your eligibility: You can do this by learning more about FMLA online, while also discussing your eligibility with your employer. For example, if you have not been an employee of the company for at least 12 months, you’re not eligible for this type of leave.
  • Know if your situation qualifies: There are several situations that qualify you for FMLA leave, such as a personal illness that keeps you from working or the need to care for an immediate family member with a serious medical concern.
  • Find out if you will get paid: Under FMLA, the law does not require you to receive payment. However, you may be able to take paid leave, such as sick days and personal days, before FMLA kicks in or as an alternative.
  • Collect your medical records: You’re not required to provide your employer with medical records, but they can request that your doctor certifies your illness by providing some type of note. It’s best to keep all medical related information nearby.
  • Understand your legal rights for retaining your job: Your employer cannot terminate your employment for requesting and taking FMLA leave. However, since there is some gray area with the law, you’ll want to understand your legal rights and how to protect them before, during and after returning from leave.

You hope that your employer complies with your request for FMLA leave, while doing whatever they can to make your life easier during this challenging time. Unfortunately, this may not always happen. And in some cases, employers take things too far by discriminating against someone who requested FMLA leave.

If you find yourself in this position, discuss your concerns with the HR department and decide if you have grounds for taking legal action.