Who Can Qualify for Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a significant federal law enacted to provide eligible employees with job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. The FMLA aims to balance the demands of work and family by allowing employees to take time off for personal and caregiving responsibilities without the fear of losing their jobs. This article provides an overview of the FMLA, its key provisions, and the rights and responsibilities it affords to employees and employers.

What is the FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law in 1993, and it applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees, as well as public agencies and schools. The FMLA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specific qualifying reasons.

Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave

  • Birth and Bonding: Employees can take FMLA leave to bond with a newborn child within one year of the child’s birth.
  • Adoption or Foster Care: FMLA leave can be used for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care within one year of the placement.
  • Serious Health Condition: Employees can take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job or to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
  • Military Family Leave: FMLA provides leave entitlements for eligible employees with family members who are covered military members and have a qualifying exigency, or for caregiving purposes related to the military member’s serious injury or illness.

Employee Eligibility and Leave Entitlement

To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must meet specific criteria:

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months (need not be consecutive) before the leave.
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period preceding the leave.
  • Work at a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

If eligible, employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave within a 12-month period. This period can be measured in various ways, including a calendar year, a fixed 12-month period, a rolling backward 12-month period, or a forward 12-month period.

Job Protection and Benefits during FMLA Leave

One of the key provisions of the FMLA is job protection. Eligible employees who take FMLA leave are entitled to return to the same position or an equivalent one upon their return. Employers must maintain the employee’s health benefits during the FMLA leave as if they were actively working.

Notice and Certification Requirements

Employees requesting FMLA leave must provide their employers with a notice of their need for leave. The employer may require medical certification to support the need for leave due to a serious health condition.

Employer Responsibilities and Compliance

  • Employers covered by the FMLA must display a notice outlining employees’ rights and responsibilities under the Act. They must also inform employees about their eligibility and rights when they become eligible for FMLA leave.
  • Employers are required to maintain records related to FMLA leave, including medical certifications, and must keep this information confidential.

Enforcement and Remedies

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA. Employees who believe their FMLA rights have been violated can file a complaint with the WHD or take legal action.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides valuable protections for eligible employees who require time off for qualifying family and medical reasons. However, having experienced legal guidance is crucial to ensure you can take advantage of everything in it.

Employment Attorney Terry K. Davis is dedicated to protecting the rights of workers throughout southern California. Contact him today at 714.558.9529 for a free consultation.