Understanding the Family Medical Leave Act


The Family Medical Leave Act is an important federal law for many workers and their families to understand. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows workers who are covered by the law to take extended time away from work for family or medical needs. Many states have similar laws that may also include more expansive coverage so it is helpful to be familiar with the different state laws.

In certain circumstances, employees who are eligible must be provided with family and medical leave including if they work for a state, local or federal government agency; or if they work for a business that is engaged in, or impacts, interstate commerce or that employs fifty employees or greater during twenty or more weeks in the prior calendar year or current calendar year. The number of employees counted towards the qualifying total includes all employees who are on the company's payroll.

In addition, certain requirements must also be met for an employee to be eligible for family medical leave under the FMLA. The employee may be eligible for leave if they worked for the employer for at least 12 months or at least 1,250 hours over the 12 months immediately prior to the need for leave. Additional geographic requirements also apply. Employers are required to provide eligible employees with a maximum of 12 weeks of leave and workers may take leave for the birth, adoption or placement of a child; to care for a spouse, minor or incompetent child with a serious health condition; or because of the employee's own serious health condition that leaves them unable to work.

A specific definition is outlined for what qualifies as a serious health condition so it is helpful for workers and their families to be familiar with that definition and what it includes. The Family Medical Leave Act provides important protections to workers during challenging times, however, a variety of complexities can arise associated with the law so it can be vital for employees to understand the complexities of the law and how it can help them.

Source: Employment.findlaw.com, "Family and Medical Leave: Overview," Accessed Aug. 1, 2017

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