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An Overview of the Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993, qualified employees have the right to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks without the risk of losing their jobs. There are restrictions—a person is entitled to only one 12 week leave during any qualifying 12-month period. Furthermore, the law does not apply to all employers, nor all employees.

Employees Covered by the FMLA

To qualify for this coverage, an employee:

  • Must have worked 1,250 hours for a qualifying employer during the previous 12-month period (such periods should have been previously designated by the employer);
  • Must have worked in the U.S., or one of its territories or possessions, in a location where the employer has at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile area. (The number of employees includes part-time, temporary and full-time workers.)

Approved Reasons for Leave

Most employees request FMLA leave to attend to their own health condition or that of an immediate family member. However, the act also allows an employee to take time off when adopting a child, giving birth, or seeking foster care or other placement for a child.
Generally, covered employees may request leave because of their own health condition or that of an immediate family member if the condition involves:

  • Hospitalization
  • Time off from work for critical medical treatments
  • Ongoing care for one or more serious chronic medical conditions
  • A need for ongoing supervision of medical care

Employers Required to Provide FMLA Leave

In addition to schools, the FMLA covers federal, state and local employers and agencies. Private employers engaged in commerce that currently employ at least 50 workers for 20 or more work weeks (or did so during the most recent calendar year) must also provide unpaid FMLA leave. Most employers are considered engaged in commerce for purposes of this statute.

Amendment Regarding Military Service

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 has amended the FMLA by permitting a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin to take up to 26 work weeks of leave to care for an injured or seriously ill member of the armed forces.
To learn more about the application of the Family and Medical Leave Act, see our Family and Medical Leave FAQs.