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Jan 15, 2002

Dear Expert,

My partner is HIV+ and should he be ill in the future and require hospitalization does the FMLA law cover leave for me to be there with him? I understand that state and local laws may affect this but I am unsure how. I live in Chicago, IL. Thank you

Response from Ms. Breuer

The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a medical problem that is your own or in your immediate family. The definition of "family" is up to your employer, so your state (Illinois)doesn't tell me what your rights would be. Your employer decides. You can take the leave a day at a time, or even a few hours at a time, as long as it doesn't go beyond 12 weeks in a year. I encourage you to think about this now only in terms of getting more information, so you can plan well. It isn't an immediate problem, so you can think about it without the pressure many people face when a family member suddenly becomes ill. Ask your HR department for information on FMLA. Or download information on it from one of the many HIV information sites. Look up FMLA leave in your employee handbook to find out how your employer defines "family." Remember: FMLA leave is unpaid leave. Good luck.

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