The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 26 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for specific reasons. This law was designed to allow workers to take time off for medical reasons, to care for a family member during an illness, or to adjust after having a baby or adopting a child. The law lets individuals balance their family needs with the pressures of their work, promotes economic security, and protects the integrity of families. There are restrictions on eligibility for FMLA leave, however.
Eligibility Requirements for FMLA
There are several requirements that must be met to be eligible for FMLA leave. These are:
- At least 12 months of employment with the company. The employment does not have to be continuous, but employment before a break of seven years or more will not be counted, unless the break was for military service or in a written agreement.
- At least 1,250 hours worked during the 12 months, not including paid time off, and must be within the 12 month period before the leave.
- The employer employs at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite. This number of employees must be maintained for each working day of a full calendar year before the request. Government agencies are exempt.
If an employee and their company meet these requirements, the employee may be eligible for leave under the FMLA. There are certain types of leave that are considered FMLA leave. These leaves are for the purpose of balancing family or health needs with work. The following reasons are valid reasons to request a FMLA leave:
- To prepare for the birth of a newborn
- To care for a newborn
- For the adoption or foster care placement of a child
- To care for a family member with a serious health condition
- To care for the employee’s own health problems
- To transition employees or their spouses who are called for active duty in the military
- To address specific exigencies of military duty, such as going to military events, arranging alternative childcare, making financial or legal arrangements, attending counseling appointments, or participating in post-deployment reintegration briefings.
Length of FMLA Leave
There are two limits on the amount of FMLA leave an employee can take in a 12 month period. Most employees are granted 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. This length of leave is available when an employee is dealing with a health issue, caring for a family member during treatment, welcoming a new child to the family, transitioning to active duty, or to address specific exigencies of military duty.
Military families may be eligible for up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave under certain circumstances. If the employee is a family member of a covered service member, the employee may be approved for leave that lasts up to 26 weeks during a 12 month period. A covered service member is either:
- An active duty member of the military who is going through medical treatment, recovery, therapy, in outpatient treatment, or on a temporary retired list for a serious injury or illness.
- A veteran who was on active duty at any point during the past 5 years prior to the date of treatment, and is going through treatment, recovery, or therapy for a serious illness or injury.
FMLA Eligibility Notice
After a request for FMLA leave has been made or the employer is made known of qualifying reasons for leave, they must provide a notice of FMLA eligibility. The notice must be given to the employee within 5 business days.
Alternatives to FMLA
Not every employee or company meets the requirements for FMLA leave. If you require leave, but are unable to meet FMLA requirements, there may be other options. Speak to your employer about your options. You may be granted unpaid leave, depending on the needs of your company. Your company’s Human Resources department may also provide alternatives. You may be able to take sick leave or vacation time to allow to you take time off. Short-term or long-term disability may also be offered by your employer.
At Donati Law, PLLC, we are dedicated to protecting the rights of workers, especially for our active duty military members and veterans, as well as their families. If you believe you have been wrongfully denied leave under the FMLA, don’t hesitate to get help from our Memphis employment law attorneys. We have been serving our clients for more than 30 years with individualized, reliable legal counsel.
Contact our offices today to request a consultation. Call (901) 209-5500.