Bereavement Leave: Your Rights Under the Law

Candles at a funeral.

Employers usually offer bereavement leave to employees for a death of a loved one. If your employer does not offer bereavement leave, you may be wondering if you have any rights under the law that allow time to mourn the death of a loved one. While there is no federal law that requires employers to grant leave to an employee to plan and attend funeral services, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does require employers to grant leave in certain situations.

Bereavement Leave and the FMLA

The FMLA does not state anywhere that employers are required to give all employees time off to mourn the loss of a loved one. It does, however, allow time off for grief counseling or for a health issue resulting from the loss of a loved one. This is only applicable if your employer is required to adhere to the FMLA.

Bereavement Leave and State Law

Oregon is the only state that allows an employee to take unpaid time off from work for a death in the family. Oregon’s bereavement leave policy allows for up to 2 weeks of unpaid leave for a death in the family.

How To Ask For Bereavement Leave

If you need time away from work for a death in the family, you should first refer to your company’s employee handbook. If there is not a handbook or a written bereavement leave policy, speak to your manager. Most companies examine bereavement leave on a case to case basis. Explain to your employer that you are distracted and need a couple of days to mourn. If the company does not allow for bereavement leave, you will have to use vacation or sick time.

The words and other content provided in the blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as professional advice (please read the Terms and Conditions for additional information).


Alicia Lillegard, Esq.

Alicia Lillegard has over 20 years of experience in employment law, human resources and insurance, working with with large blue chip companies, startups, and not-for-profit organizations. Ms. Lillegard is currently Managing Director of New England Human Capital, a human resources consultancy which advises small and midsize businesses on Human Resources compliance, including employment procedures, employee relations and employee benefits. She holds degrees from Loyola University Chicago and John Marshall Law School.

%d bloggers like this: