In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed to help employees balance the demands of their jobs and important family issues. It is important for employees to understand their rights under FMLA so that they can appropriately plan for the care of their families.
Who is Eligible for FMLA Benefits?
Eligible employees who work for covered employers are eligible for FMLA benefits.
An eligible employee is defined as one who has been employed by his or her current employer for 12 or more months. There is no requirement that these months be consecutive. Further, in the 12 months immediately preceding the employee’s requested leave the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours. The hours that may be included in the 1,250 required hours are defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These requirements must be met by the time the leave commences, not by the time it is requested. So, for example, if a pregnant woman makes her leave request in February but will not begin her leave until May then she has until May to meet the 12 months and 1,250 hour requirements.
A covered employer is one who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or previous calendar year. Public agencies and public schools are covered employees without regard to the number of people that they employ.
What are FMLA benefits?
Eligible employees who work for covered employers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period for:
- The birth and care of an employee’s new baby;
- The placement of an adopted or foster child in the home of the employee;
- Care of a spouse, parent or child with a serious medical condition; or
- Care of himself or herself if a serious medical condition prevents the employee from working.
Each eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for any of the above reasons within one 12 month period. It is important to note that the total eligible leave is 12 weeks and it is not 12 works per incident or circumstance. Therefore, if an employee took 12 weeks of leave at the time he adopted a child and his mother later became seriously ill within 12 months of that leave then he would not be eligible for any other time off pursuant to FMLA until 12 months had passed since his first leave.
Applicability to Military Families
In 2008, FMLA was amended to permit a parent, child, spouse or next of kin to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a, “member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness."
The specifics of FMLA are often debated and compared to benefits provided to employees in other countries. However, for many families FMLA provides important benefits and the flexibility to be a dedicated employee and a responsible family member.
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