THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA)

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

Eligible employees are entitled to twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for (1) the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth; (2) the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement; (3) to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition; (4) a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or (5) any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”

Generally, private employers with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius are covered by the law, are all governmental agencies and schools.  To be eligible, a person must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and also for at least 1250 hours in the 12 months (an average of 24 hours per week for one year) before the leave begins.

The only benefit FMLA provides is job protection – it does not require the employer to pay any other form of wages or benefits.  While a worker is on FMLA, the employer may require the use of accrued time, payment for health insurance, etc.  An employer may charge FMLA for a work-related injury, and may terminate the worker after the 12 week period expires.

Of course, all of these things may be – and often are – modified to provide additional worker protections by a collective bargaining agreement, employment contract, employer policy, state or local law.

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