What is FMLA and how does it work?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) entitles employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.

What is the purpose of FMLA?

FMLA protects the employee by giving them continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had never taken the leave. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

Who is eligible for FMLA?

Employees are eligible for FMLA if they have met the following requirements:

1. The employee must have worked for their employer at least 12 months;
2. The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months; and
3. The employee must have worked at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

What is an employee entitled to under FMLA?

If an employee does meet the above requirements, he/she is entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.

What can FMLA be taken for?

If an employee is eligible, he/she can take FMLA for certain family and medical reasons, such as:

1. The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
2. The arrival of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
3. To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
4. A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or
5. Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”

It is important to remember that, like many laws, there are certain restrictions to the above listed reasons. Looking closely, some of the above reasons have words that need defining in order to understand exactly who is covered. For example, FMLA may be taken to care for the employee’s “spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.” But what exactly does that mean?
The term “child” can be broken down to mean “son or daughter.” Under the Family Medical and Leave Act of 1993, “son or daughter” means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is under 18 years of age or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

Under the Family Medical and Leave Act of 1993, the term “parent” means the biological parent of an employee or an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee was a son or daughter. The term “serious health condition” means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (1) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility or (2) continuing treatment by a health care provider.

These are definitions of just a few key terms. Like most statutes and laws, there are a lot of exceptions and loopholes. Therefore, it is important to research the FMLA before deciding whether or not to apply for it.