How Family Responsibilities Get You Fired

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) — Although most working parents do a great job balancing family commitments and work responsibilities, for others it’s a constant struggle. According to the Bright Horizons Modern Family Index , nearly half — 48% — of all working parents fear their family obligations could get them fired. What are the realities? Here’s a look at what’s normal for working parents and what might cost you your job.

Missing work to care for a sick family member

If you’re dealing with a serious health condition of a child or immediate family member, the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Your employer must give you your job back if you return to work when those 12 weeks are up, says employment attorney Christina Stoneburner with Fox Rothschild Stoneburner . To qualify for FMLA, you must have worked for at least one year for an employer that has 50 or more employees.

“The issue of caring for an elderly parent or a family member with a serious illness is more common than you might think. While having a family isn’t a protected class, FMLA offers some protection for people when their spouse, child or parent is facing a severe health issue,” Stoneburner says.

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With that said, FMLA won’t help you if you’re taking care of a family member with the sniffles or a sore throat.

“There is no federal law that mandates employers give consideration to employees with family responsibilities,” she says. “If your child has a cold, you’ll need to take a vacation day or work from home if that’s an option for you.”

Last-minute “work from home” requests

If your employer offers the ability to work from home on occasion, taking too much advantage of it can send up red flags to your managers.

“These arrangements really need to be set up in advance,” Stoneburner says. “Don’t call in on Thursday to say you are going to work from home on Friday.”

If you know your desired work-from-home schedule will be varied — the first Monday of every week and the third Wednesday, for example — don’t be afraid to ask for that schedule up front. Employers like to have more notice so they can plan.

“Just go ahead and put it all out there. Be realistic about what you need from the beginning,” she says. “If you keep going back asking for different days or a different arrangement, it will look like you’re just nickeling-and-diming them.”

A pattern of calling in “sick” at certain times

It’s all about the pattern, Stoneburner says. If you consistently call in “sick” the day before or the day after a planned vacation, or every Friday when the weather is nice, you could risk disciplinary action from your employer.