WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE ACT
The Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that provides important rights to employees who need to take medical or family leave – in other words- time off from work to attend to family or medical issues. The law is intended to balance the demands of work life and home life and to ensure that jobs are not lost to exigent circumstances.
To qualify for the FMLA mandate, a worker must be employed by a business with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of his or her worksite, or a public agency, including schools and state, local, and federal employers (the 50-employee threshold does not apply to public agency employees and local educational agencies). He or she must also have worked for that employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive) and 1,250 hours within the last 12 months.
The FMLA mandates unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks a year:
- to care for a new child, whether for the birth of a son or daughter, or for the adoption or placement of a child in foster care;
- to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, son, daughter, or parent) (Note: Son/daughter has been clarified by the Department of Labor to mean a child under the age of 18 or a child over the age of 18 with a mental or physical disability as defined by the American Disabilities Act, which excludes among other conditions, pregnancy and post-partum recovery from childbirth);
- to recover from a worker’s own serious illness;
- to care for an injured service member in the family;
- to address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.
- twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
The federal FMLA does not apply to:
- workers in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (this threshold does not apply to public agency employers and local educational agencies);
- workers who have worked fewer than 1,250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave and a paid vacation;
- workers who need time off to care for seriously ill elderly relatives (other than parents) or pets;
- workers who need time off to recover from short-term or common illness like a cold, or to care for a family member with a short-term illness;
- elected officials; and
- workers who need time off for routine medical care, such as check-ups.