Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What is FMLA?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year and that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave. This law applies to all public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

Reasons for FMLA Leave

  • Birth and care of newborn child
  • Child adoption or foster care
  • To care for an immediate family member (ex: spouse, child, parent) with a serious health condition
  • If an employee has a serious health condition and is unable to work

FMLA Qualifications

Who is covered under FMLA? The Family Medical Leave Act only applies to eligible employees:

  • Employee must work for a covered employer:
    • private employer with at least 50 employees
    • public agency (local, state, or Federal government agency
    • or public/private elementary or secondary school
  • Employees need to have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive months, and for at least 1250 hours in the 12 month period (this averages to 24 hours per week).
  • Employees must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite.

How Long is FMLA?

If employees are faced with a health condition that causes them to miss work, whether it’s their own condition or to care for an eligible family member with a health condition, they can take up to 12-weeks of job-protected time off. 

If an employee takes FMLA, the employer must continue the employee’s health insurance as if they were not on leave. 

As long as the employee is able to return to work before exhausting the FMLA leave, the employer must return the employee to the same job (or one nearly identical to it).

Can Employees Receive Pay on FMLA?

FMLA leave is unpaid, however, if an employee has sick time, vacation time, personal time, etc. they may use that leave time along with their FMLA so they can continue to get paid.

FMLA Employee Rights

If you aren’t returned to the exact same job, the new position must offer: 

  1. Same or substantially similar duties, responsibilities and authority
  2. Same level of skill, effort, responsibility, and authority
  3. Identical pay 
  4. Identical benefits
  5. Same general work schedule

To learn where you can file an FMLA complaint you’ll need to contact the local office of the Department of Labor.

Can an Employee Be Laid Off or Fired on FMLA?

While an employer cannot fire an employee for requesting or taking FMLA, an employer can still terminate or lay off the employee even while he or she is on leave or just returned. The underlying reason for the layoff or termination has to be completely unrelated to the FMLA leave, though.

Have more questions on FMLA? Visit the FMLA Fact Sheet for more information.

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