Exploring the Family Medical Leave Act

Many children and elderly people depend on family members for economic and emotional support. What happens when a family emergency arises and you are placed in a position where you might have to make a choice between continuing your employment and caring for yourself or a family member? If such an unfortunate situation occurs, you may be able to take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").

What Is The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Congress passed the FMLA in 1993 in order to protect workers in the event that an employee or family member suffered from a serious medical condition. The FMLA requires covered employers to allow eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, during any 12-month period, for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, and for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition. There are also state and local laws that offer similar protections to employees.

How Do I Request FMLA Leave?

The first step in determining whether you can request FMLA leave is to determine whether your employer is covered by the FMLA. The FMLA covers private employers with 50 or more employees. The FMLA also covers public agencies, including public or private elementary and secondary schools. The eligibility requirements can be very complex, so you should seek advice from your Human Resources department or from a lawyer before requesting FMLA leave.

The next step is to determine whether you are eligible to receive FMLA leave. In order to be eligible, you must have been employed by a covered employer for at least 12 months. Additionally, you must have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period that precedes your FMLA leave request. Once you make your request, your employer must act within two business days. If the employer fails to challenge your eligibility within the allotted time, you are automatically eligible for FMLA leave.

When Does An Employer Have To Grant A Leave Request?

There are certain situations when an employer must grant a leave request to an FMLA eligible employee. Covered employers are required to grant leave to an employee for the birth and care of a newborn child, or for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care. Additionally, employers must grant leave for the care of the employee's spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition. Employers also must grant FMLA leave to an employee who has a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee's job.

Congress passed the FMLA to benefit both employers and employees. Employees with a stable family life are much more likely to be productive in the workplace. The FMLA can be a wonderful resource for you, especially in the event of an unforeseen medical problem. Now is the best time for you to determine if you can use FMLA leave, or similar state or local laws, that can protect your job while you resolve important family issues.