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Getting Started with the Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that gives, as an entitlement, specific employees job-protected leave for a particular family or medical reason. FMLA can get complicated, but this article will provide you the essential information you need to get started. (This article only talks about private sector companies that are not elementary or secondary schools).

If you want to watch the video then check this out.

1. Which businesses are covered?

The FMLA only applies to what is called covered employers. A covered employer (in the private sector) has 50 or more employees in 20 workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Joint employers or successor in interest to a covered employer also count. If you think this might be you, then you should stop here and consult an attorney. 

2. Which employees are covered?

Things are going to start getting confusing. Even if a company is a covered employer, not all the employees will be eligible for FMLA entitlements. The employees that are covered by the FMLA are called eligible employees. These employees must meet the following conditions:

  1. The employee works for a covered employer (you probably figured that one out yourself).

  2. The employee worked for the employer for at least 12 months.

  3. The employee has at least 1,250 hours of service, for that employer, during the 12 months immediately before the leave.

  4. The employee works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. 

3. What does FMLA provide eligible employees?

All eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 workweeks of leave in 12 months for one or more of the below reasons (“entitled to” means that the employer cannot say no):

  1. Having a kid either through birth, adoption, or foster care.

  2. To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition.

  3. For the employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of the position.

  4. For any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status. 

Because we love to make HR complicated, there is one more thing. 

An eligible employee may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness when the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the service member. 

4. Does FMLA provide eligble employees anything else?

Well, yes, it does. The eligible employee gets job protection which includes being returned to the same or similar job when leave is over and continuing health coverage during the absence. 

5. What are the employee’s responsibilities?

The employee must follow any leave requesting procedures the business has. Additionally, the employee must provide the employer with enough information for the employer to determine if the FMLA covers the request. Additionally, employees should generally offer at least 30 days advance notice of the leave request where possible. 

6. What are the employer’s responsibilities? 

A covered employer needs to post a notice explaining the rights and responsibilities under FMLA. There is a civil penalty for willful failure to post, so pay attention. The employer also needs to make sure that FMLA information is either in the employee handbook or provided to new employees when they onboard with the employer. 

The employer also has additional requirements once an employee makes a FMLA leave request or the employer has knowledge that leave may be for a FMLA qualifying reason. When this happens, the employer must provide the specific employee information on his/her/their eligibility, rights, and responsibilities. The employer must also tell the employee the amount of leave that is being charged as FMLA. 

These are the basic facts of FMLA that will get you started. Let me know if you have additional questions ( 

Sarah Torres-Ferrick is a human resources expert who supports small businesses as they grow. For over a decade Sarah has worked with executives at government agencies on growing and sustaining high performing workforces. She holds certification from the Society for Human Resources Management and now uses these skills to bring effective human resources solutions to small businesses.

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