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Career Coach

Dear Career Coach:
I am the sole IT person in a remote branch office of a large company. My wife is expecting twins, and I want to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). My employer says I am ineligible because my branch office has fewer than 50 employees--but the company has nearly 700 workers. Do I have any recourse?
Daddy-Oh No

Dear Daddy:

FMLA states that employers must grant leave to employees who are "employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of that worksite." In other words, your employer is correct.

However, I put your question to Martin Ebel, an employment and public-accommodation attorney based in Marlboro, Mass., who says that states may provide additional protections: Some states have mini-FMLAs, which guarantee leave for employees who are not covered by the federal law. A few states have separate maternity and paternity leave statutes, also with less stringent triggering requirements.

If your state doesn't offer such provisions, there's still hope: Ebel recommends that you consult your employee handbook. Many large companies whose satellite-office workers may be ineligible under FMLA fail to note the exclusion in their office manuals, benefits handbooks or other written policies. If the written policy doesn't identify the exception, there may be recourse for the employee. Finally, you could point out that from a management perspective this is simply bad PR. Savvy employers will treat all employees the same to uphold morale.

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