Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) - who and what covered?

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides workers job-protection and unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons.


Who is covered by the FMLA?

  • if  you work for an employer who's covered:
    • that's any employer in the private or other sector who engages in commerce if that employer has 50 or more employers each working day at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding calender year.
    • public agencies (local an state governments) and local education agencies (schools)- these employers don't have to meet the 50 workers test
  • and if you work at a location in the U.S. for a covered employer within 75 miles of which that employer employs at least 50 people;
  • and if you have worked at least 12 months (not consecutive) for that employer;
  • and if you have worked at least 1250 hours during these 12 months immediately before the date FMLA starts.

What is covered by the FMLA?

  • 12 workweeks of leave in any 12-month period for:
    • birth and care of your child, within a year of birth
    • placement of your adoptive or foster care child, within a year of placement
    • care of immediate family (spouse, child, parent) with a serious health condition
    • your own serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job
    • any qualifying arising out of the fact that your spouse, child or parent is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the U.S. National Guard or Reserves in support of contingency operation
  • 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious health condition if you are the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of the service member (Military Caregiver Leave)
  • Intermittent FMLA leave or on a reduced leave schedule can be taken without approval of your employer if your leave is medical necessary due to pregnancy, a serious health condition of yourself or a covered service member due to qualifying exigency (medical necessary). You need your employers approval if you want intermittent leave for adoption or foster care
  • you are entitled to the same group health benefits as you were receiving before your FMLA leave during your leave - If applicable you have to pay a share of health insurance premiums while on leave and if you fail to return to work after leave your employer may recover premiums paid for your health coverage during leave.
  • you may elect the substitution of any accrued paid leave (vacation, sick, personal etc.) for periods of unpaid FMLA leave, determined by the terms and conditions of your employers normal leave policy
  • when you return from FMLA leave you are entitled to be restored in the same job or equivalent work with the same salary, benefits and other terms and conditions of your work

How to take/end FMLA leave?

  • Foreseeable leave: give your employer at least 30 days notice
  • Not foreseeable leave: give your employer notice as soon as possible
  • Provide your employer sufficient information/qualifying reason why you apply for the FMLA leave - e.g. certification from your health care provider
  • Your employer must notify your eligibility to take the FMLA leave and inform you about your rights and responsibilities: 
  • Provide periodic reports to your employer about your status during your leave and/or when you will return to work - your employer may require a "fitness-for-duty" certification from your health care provider.
  • If you can't return to work after the FMLA leave you're potential liable for payment of health insurance premiums paid by your employer during your FMLA leave

More info?


For more information, call the Wage and Hour Division toll-free, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)

Updated: October 2016

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