Family and Medical Leave

Employers with 50 or more employees and public agencies are required to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave per year because of the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition, because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job, or because of certain exigencies that arise as a result of the foreign military deployment of an eligible employee’s spouse, child, or parent. The FMLA also allows eligible employees to take a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered military service member with a serious injury or illness. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for his or her employer for at least a year and must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the twelve months before the leave began.

FMLA leave may be taken all at once, or it may be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule, depending upon the reason for the leave. Although the FMLA provides only the right to take unpaid leave, employees may be able to substitute paid leave, such as sick leave or vacation time, for unpaid FMLA leave. In some cases, an employer may require an employee to use accrued sick leave or vacation time in place of unpaid FMLA leave.

Employees may be required to support their need for FMLA leave with documentation from their healthcare providers. In some cases, an employer may also require that an employee who needs FMLA leave because of his or her own serious health condition be evaluated by a health care provider selected by the employer. Employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions. The FMLA also prohibits employers from counting FMLA leave under “no-fault” attendance policies.

Except in limited circumstances, an employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled to be reinstated to the job that he or she held at the time the leave began, or to a job with equivalent employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employers are also required to maintain group health insurance coverage for employees who are on FMLA leave.