Family Medical Leave Act: What You Need To Know

The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a federal law that requires certain employers to provide certain employees with time off in particular situations. While some may be inclined to view the FMLA as a free pass for employees to take a leave whenever they wish and be guaranteed a job when they return, it should be noted that there are a number of fairly stringent requirements associated with the law, all of which must be met in order to claim a federal right to take unpaid, job-protected leave.

Who is eligible?

In order to be eligible for leave under the FMLA, in most cases a person must be working for a company that employs 50 or more employees. If this main prerequisite has been met, there are additional requirements tied to the length of time an employee has worked for a particular employer in order to qualify for job-protected leave under the FMLA. In other words, new employees and part-time employees will most likely not be eligible for FMLA leave, even if a medical situations arise when they least expect them and often at the worst possible time.

How much leave is permitted?

Should an employee meet the requirements, FMLA benefits can be very helpful. Workers with serious health conditions, such as long-term ailments and those requiring hospitalization, are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

This period of leave is also available for the birth of a child; for the care of a newborn child within one year of birth; for the care for an adopted child or foster child within one year of placement; for the care of an employee's spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition; for the care of an employee with a serious health condition that renders him or her unable to perform essential job functions; or any qualifying circumstance arising from the fact that an employee's spouse, son, daughter or parent is a covered military member on covered active duty.

Additionally, military caregiver leave entitles an employee to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member who has a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member's spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin.

Still have questions about FMLA?

While the bar is set fairly high for qualifications under the FMLA, eligible employees do receive some relief under the law. If you are not sure if you qualify for FMLA leave, talk to an experienced attorney who can help you assess your situation.