Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act FMLA - Part 1

When you or a loved one experiences a serious health condition that requires you to take time off from work, the stress from worrying about keeping your job may add to an already difficult situation. With the Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA there is no need to worry; the FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave. Leave may be taken all at once, or may be taken intermittently as the medical condition requires.

Who can Use FMLA Leave?

In order to take FMLA leave, you must first work for a covered employer. Generally, private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the law. Private employers with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA, but may be covered by state family and medical leave laws. Government agencies including local, state and federal employers and elementary and secondary schools are covered by the FMLA, regardless of the number of employees.

If you work for a covered employer, you need to meet additional criteria to be eligible to take FMLA leave. Not everyone who works for a covered employer is eligible.

First, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. You do not have to have worked for 12 months in a row, so seasonal work counts, but generally if you have a break in service that lasted more than seven years, you cannot count the period of employment prior to the seven-year break.

Second, you must have worked for the employer for at least 1250 hours in the 12 months before you take leave. That works out to be an average of about 24 hours per week, over the course of a year.

Lastly, you must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work-site. So even if your employer has more than 50 employees, if they are spread out and there are not 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work, you will not be eligible to take FMLA leave.

Airline Flight Attendants/Flight Crew Employees

Due to non-traditional work schedules, airline flight attendants and flight crew members are subject to special eligibility requirements under the FMLA. You meet the hours of work requirement if, during the 12 months prior to your need for leave, you have worked or been paid for at least 60% of your applicable monthly guarantee, and have worked or been paid for at least 504 hours, not including personal commute time, or time spent on vacation, medical or sick leave.
When can FMLA Leave be taken?

If you work for an employer that is covered by the FMLA, and you are an eligible employee, you can take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in any 12-month period for a variety of reasons including:

Serious Health Condition

You may take FMLA leave to care for your spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition and when you are unable to work because of your own serious health condition.

The most common serious health conditions that qualify for FMLA leave are:

1) Conditions requiring an overnight stay in a hospital or other medical care facility;

2) Conditions that incapacitate you or your family member for example, unable to work or attend school, for more than 3 consecutive days and have ongoing medical treatment, either multiple appointments with a health care provider, or a single appointment and follow-up care such as prescription medication;

3) Chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when you or your family member are incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year; and

4) Pregnancy including prenatal medical appointments, incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically required bed rest.

Expanding Your Family

You may take FMLA leave for the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn child, or for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to bond with that child. Men and women have the same right to take FMLA leave to bond with their child but it must be taken within one year of the child's birth or placement and must be taken as a continuous block of leave unless the employer agrees to allow intermittent leave for example, a part-time schedule.

Military Family Leave

The FMLA also provides certain military family leave entitlements. You may take FMLA leave for specified reasons related to certain military deployments. Additionally, you may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

In Loco Parentis

A child under the FMLA includes not only a biological or adopted child, but also a foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. The FMLA regulations define in loco parentis as including those with day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support a child. Employees who have no biological or legal relationship with a child may nonetheless stand in loco parentis to the child and be entitled to FMLA leave.

For example, an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty or an employee who is co-parenting a child with his or her same sex partner may exercise their right to FMLA leave.

Also, an eligible employee is entitled to take FMLA leave to care for a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child.


Read the second part on website.

Gloria E. Towolawi is a Workplace subject matter expert; Publisher- Workplace Weekly News Publication. Author: Five Minute HR Trainer for Supervisors and Business Owners. She invites you to subscribe to her Weekly News at her website, http://www.workplace-weekly.com/hr-news/digital-e-news/

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