Family and Medical Leave Act
Employee rights and responsibilities
Basic leave entitlement
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the following reasons:
- For incapacity due to pregnancy, prenatal medical care, or childbirth
- To care for the employee's child after birth or placement for adoption or foster care
- To care for the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition
- For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee's job
Military family leave entitlement
Eligible employees with a spouse, son, daughter, or parent on active duty or call-to-active-duty status in the National Guard or Reserves in support of a contingency operation may use their 12-week leave entitlement to address certain qualifying exigencies. Qualifying exigencies may include:
- Attending certain military events
- Arranging for alternative childcare
- Addressing certain financial and legal arrangements
- Attending certain counseling sessions
- Attending post-deployment reintegration briefings
Special leave entitlement
FMLA also includes a special leave entitlement that permits eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered service member during a single 12-month period. A covered service member is a current member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who has a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty on active duty that may render the service member medically unfit to perform his or her duties for which the service member is:
- Undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy
- In outpatient status
- On the temporary disability retired list
Benefits and protections
During FMLA leave, the employer must maintain the employee's health coverage under any group health plan on the same terms as if the employee had continued to work. Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to their original or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms.
Use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an employee's leave.
Employees are eligible if:
- They have worked for a covered employer for at least one year
- They have worked for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months
- And at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles
Definition of serious health condition
A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves either an overnight stay in a medical care facility or continuing treatment by a health care provider for a condition that either prevents the employee from performing the functions of the employee's job or prevents the qualified family member from participating in school or other daily activities.
Subject to certain conditions, the continuing treatment requirement may be met by a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days combined with at least two visits to a health care provider or:
- One visit and a regimen of continuing treatment
- Incapacity due to pregnancy
- Incapacity due to a chronic condition
Other conditions may meet the definition of continuing treatment.
Use of leave
An employee does not need to use this leave entitlement in one block. Leave can be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary. Employees must make reasonable efforts to schedule leave for planned medical treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations. Leave due to qualifying exigencies may also be taken on an intermittent basis.
Substitution of paid leave for unpaid leave
Employees may choose, or employers may require, use of accrued paid leave while taking FMLA leave. To use paid leave for FMLA leave, employees must comply with the employer's normal paid leave policies.
Employees must provide 30 days advance notice of the need to take FMLA leave when the need is foreseeable. When 30 days notice is not possible, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable and generally must comply with an employer's normal call-in procedures.
Employees must provide sufficient information for the employer to determine if the leave may qualify for FMLA protection and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave. Sufficient information may include:
- Employee is unable to perform job functions
- Family member is unable to perform daily activities
- Need for hospitalization or continuing treatment by a health care provider
- Circumstances supporting the need for military family leave
Employees also must inform the employer if the requested leave is for a reason for which FMLA leave was previously taken or certified. Employees also may be required to provide a certification and periodic recertification supporting the need for leave.
Covered employers must inform employees requesting leave whether they are eligible under FMLA. If they are, the notice must specify any additional information required as well as the employees' rights and responsibilities. If they are not eligible, the employer must provide a reason for the ineligibility.
Covered employers must inform employees if leave will be designated as FMLA-protected and the amount of leave counted against the employee's leave entitlement. If the employer determines that the leave is not FMLA-protected, the employer must notify the employee.
Unlawful acts by employers
FMLA makes it unlawful for any employer to:
- Interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under FMLA
- Discharge or discriminate against any person for opposing any practice made unlawful by FMLA or for involvement in any proceeding under or relating to FMLA
An employee may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor or may bring a private lawsuit against an employer.
FMLA does not affect any federal or state law prohibiting discrimination or supersede any state or local law or collective bargaining agreement that provides greater family or medical leave rights.