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Family and Medical Leave Act

Welcome to FindLaw's section on employees' rights to family and medical leave, including maternity leave, disability, and more. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the federal law that allows covered employees to take extended time away from work to handle certain family or medical matters. This section contains answers to common questions on the FMLA, employee rights and responsibilities, and more. To begin, select an item from the list below. Alternatively, you may wish to download FindLaw's Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act for a brief, comprehensive look at what you need to know about the FMLA.

Family and Medical Leave: Overview

Not every employer is required to provide employees with family or medical leave. When the employer is a state, local, or federal government agency their workers are covered. Employees of private businesses that are engaged in or affect interstate commerce that employed 50 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or prior calendar year are also covered. The number of employees includes part-time employees, employees on leave, and leased or temporary employees.

If the employer meets these requirements the employee at issue is eligible for leave if they worked for 12 months and worked 1,250 hours over the 12 months immediately preceding the need for leave. They must be working in the U.S. or a U.S. territory where the employer has 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius.

Covered employers must provide eligible employees with a maximum of 12 weeks of leave. They are not required to provide pay during this leave, but it may be combined with paid leave such as vacation or sick leave. Eligible employees may take leave for birth, adoption, placement of a child, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition, or to handle their own serious health condition.

Reasons That Qualify For FMLA Leave

The birth of a child, pregnancy, adoption, or foster care may provide a basis for leave. The FMLA permits the father of a child to take leave to assist in the care of a newborn child or to provide care for their incapacitated spouse. Upon the employer's approval the parent may choose to take their leave a few weeks at a time or by reducing normal work hours periodically. This is referred to as "intermittent parental leave." Those seeking adoption or a foster relationship may take their leave prior to the completion of the adoption in order to attend to the requirements for the child's placement such as counseling sessions, court dates, or travel to complete the adoption.

"Serious health condition" means illness, injury, impairment, or a physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment. Where leave is sought to care for a family member that person must be the employee's spouse, child, or parent. Ordinary illnesses generally do not qualify for this leave.

Where the employee seeks leave for their own serious health condition the condition must render them unable to perform their essential job duties as a result of the illness and it must result in a "period of incapacity" of more than three consecutive calendar days. If the employee's condition requires two or more visits to a health care provider they must occur within 30 days of the first day the employee became incapacitated. Where the illness at issue is a chronic health condition it must require doctor's visits at least twice in any calendar year to qualify. Employees may be required to show medical certification of their illness.

Learn About Family and Medical Leave Act