The Family Medical Leave Act

By: Tom Perkins

After more than 13 years since passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers are still asking questions about workers' rights under FMLA and how to effectively implement the law. We have provided a concise overview to the current law and what employers effected by the law should know.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law which provides certain employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year and requires group health benefits be maintained during the leave period.

Are All Employers Required to Following FMLA?
No. Only public employers and private employers who have 50 or more employees who have been on the payroll for 20 or more weeks in a calendar year are required to provide FMLA leave.

Do All Employees Qualify for the Leave?
No. All employees of a qualifying organization may not be eligible for FMLA. To be eligible, an employee must have worked for the employer:
1. a minimum of one year;
2. a minimum of 1,250 hours (an average of 25 hours per week) during the 12 months prior to the start of the FMLA leave; and
3. are employed at a location where at least 50 employees are working at the location within a 75-mile radius

For What Reasons is Leave Granted?
An employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
· the birth and care of a newborn child (an employee's entitlement to family and medical leave for the birth or placement of a child expires 12 months after the birth or placement of the child),
· the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child;
· care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent — but not a parent "in-law") with a serious health condition; and
· when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. (See the DOL website for a definition of a "serious health condition.")

Other Important Things to Know?

· An employer must give an employee requesting FMLA written notice, within two business days, if they are not eligible for FMLA. If the employer does not respond within two business days, the employee will be eligible to take the leave.

· Once the leave has been granted or the employee is provided with approval notice, the employer cannot alter the leave.

· The employer can ask the employee to provide a medical certification from a health care provider that substantiates the need to use FMLA. FMLA can be delayed until the certification has been received. In addition, the employer can ask for the employee to provide a fitness-for-duty certification prior to returning to work.

· If you are located in a state which also provides family and medical leave rights superior to the federal FMLA, the state law applies. If the federal law provides superior rights, then the federal law applies.

FMLA is a complex law full of several caveats and special provisions. It is unique in that it creates a foundation of family and medical leave benefits for eligible workers, but does not set any defining limitations. As an employer, it is imperative that you understand this directive and its requirements for implementations.

For a comprehensive look at the law, go to the Department of Labor website and select “Family & Medical Leave” from the side toolbar.

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Tom Perkins is a business solutions coach and certified personal trainer who leads fitness professionals to profitability. Send an email to [email protected] to receive the Essential Business Success Checklist. Or visit his website at

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