Summary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Reference Guide to the Fair and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Basic Leave Entitlement
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 child birth;
• To care for the employee’s child after birth, or placement for
adoption or foster care;
• To care for the employee’s spouse, son or daughter, or parent, who
has a serious health condition; or
• For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to
perform the employee’s job.
Military Family Leave Entitlements
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, and attending
post-deployment reintegration briefings.
FMLA also includes a special leave entitlement that permits eligible
employees to take up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a covered
servicemember during a single 12-month period. A covered servicemember
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
servicemember medically unfit to perform his or her duties for which
the servicemember is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or
therapy; or is in outpatient status; or is on the temporary disability
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, for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and if
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
Subject to certain conditions, the continuing treatment requirement may
be met by a period of incapacity of more than 3 consecutive calendar
days combined with at least two visits to a health care provider or one
visit and a regimen of continuing treatment, or incapacity due to
pregnancy, or 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. In order 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 that the employee is unable to perform job functions, the
family member is unable to perform daily activities, the need for
hospitalization or continuing treatment by a health care provider, or
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
• 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
which provides greater family or medical leave rights.
| Last accessed: February 7, 2009.
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