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What is FMLA?

FMLA is an acronym that refers to the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was signed into federal law in 1993. Under the FMLA, eligible employees are allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical health reasons. Taking leave under the FMLA allows for the continuation of group health insurance coverage with the same terms as if the employee had continued working.

The FMLA has a few stipulations that are important to understand if you’re considering taking leave. First, not all citizens are able to take leave. The employee must work for a covered employer, which includes all public agencies. Private agencies, on the other hand, only have to follow FMLA if there are 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of the location.

Second, not every employee within an agency that complies with FMLA standards is eligible to take leave. Employees must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months prior to taking leave and they must have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12 months they’ve worked for the company. That translates to around 32 40-hour work weeks or 50 25-hour work weeks. The employee also has to work at a location where there are at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

The last stipulation regarding the FMLA is the reason the employee is taking the leave. Employees are covered for the following reasons: birth or care of the employee’s child or placement for adoption or foster care of a child with the employee; care of an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent); and care of the employee’s own serious health condition. Any of these reasons allow the employee to take up to 12 workweeks of leave within a 12-month period. Additionally, an employee may take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to take care of a covered service member with a serious illness or injury if the employee is the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of the service member. FMLA standards for service members are a little different.

There are a few conditions that employers are allowed under the FMLA but are not required. For example, employers are not required to seek proof or illness or injury, but they are allowed to require it of their employee. Employers may also require that you use up your paid leave before you take leave under FMLA. Check with HR at your agency to see if this is the case for you. Additionally, keep in mind that you are guaranteed a job if you take the leave, but you aren’t necessarily guaranteed the same job that you had before you took the leave. However, you are guaranteed a job with equivalent pay and benefits within the agency.

Now that you know the basic stipulations of the FMLA, talk to your HR department at your agency to find out additional information that your employer might require.

Last Updated: May 04, 2015