1. What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, commonly known as the FMLA, is a law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave per year. The FMLA was designed to help employees by allowing them to take a reasonable amount of leave for certain family and medical reasons.

2. Who qualifies for family and medical leave?

First, an employee must work for an employer who is an eligible employer for the FMLA. Eligible employers include:

  • Public agencies such as local, state or federal government agencies.
  • Public or private elementary or secondary schools.
  • Private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius in at least 20 work weeks in the current or preceding year.

Second, the employee must be eligible for family and medical leave. The criteria include:

  • The employee works for a covered employer.
  • The employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months as of the date on which they intend to begin any leave. (The months aren't required to be consecutive, but if they worked for the employer seven or more years ago, the employer is not required to count that time.)
  • The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave.
  • The employee works in a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

3. What entitles me to take family and medical leave?

Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They need to give birth to and/or care for their newborn child, or look after a child that has been placed in their care by an adoption or foster care agency.
  • They need to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition.
  • They take medical leave because they are unable to work due to a serious health condition.

Service member with a serious illness or injury: An eligible employee may also take up to 26 weeks' leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury. The service member must be the employee’s spouse, child, parent or next of kin.

4. Can I use family and medical leave in blocks of time?

Yes. An intermittent or reduced schedule for family and medical leave can be used, which means that an employee may take their leave in separate blocks of time, or by reducing the time that the employee works each day or week.

5. Can I use any vacation/sick days in addition to my 12 weeks?

An employee may choose, or some employers may require, that an employee use their accrued paid leave to run concurrently with any family and medical leave period. This means that an employee can or will be required to use any paid vacation time, which will be included in the 12-week leave. An employee’s ability to substitute accrued paid leave is determined by the terms and conditions of the employer’s normal leave policy.

6. How far in advance must I tell my employer that I plan to take leave?

Generally, employees must request leave 30 days in advance of when the need to take leave is foreseeable. If the need to take family and medical leave is in less than 30 days, or is unforeseeable, employees are required to provide notice as soon as possible.

7. Can I be fired or demoted when I return from leave?

No. It is unlawful for an employer to fire or discriminate against an employee who asserted their right to family and medical leave. In addition, upon return from leave, an employee must be restored to their original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of their employment.

Employers are also required to continue group health insurance coverage for an employee on family and medical leave.

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If you believe that you have been retaliated against for asserting your right to take family and medical leave, or if you were eligible for but denied leave, please call Herrmann Law to speak with an employment law attorney about the specifics of your case.