FMLA, also known as The Family and Medical Leave Act, was put into place in 1993 to ensure a good work-personal life balance in regards to medical needs with employees and their families.
With this act, employees have the option to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a serious health condition or to care for a family member who is dealing with such a situation. FMLA is also available for those who require time off following the birth of a child. While some people qualify for FMLA, this is not true of every worker. Companies with fewer than 50 employees do not have to abide by the rules set forth by FMLA.
Even if your company is eligible, not all workers are able to take advantage of this act. Eligible workers must have been employed by the company for a minimum of 12 months before requesting time off. Additionally, they are required to have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during that time frame.
Final point: it is within your employer's rights to require proof of the condition. This is not always easy to ask for and supply, but it often comes to light. If your company asks for proof, find out what they need and go from there.
When you are aware of how FMLA works, it is easier to decide if you can take advantage of the privileges that have been made available to you. While most companies understand the law, there are some that fight against eligible leave. This can lead to additional stress, including a claim of discrimination.
Source: U.S. News & World Report LP., "6 Things You Need to Know About the Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed April. 15, 2015