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Family and Medical Leave Act 101

The Family and Medical Leave Act went into effect in 1993. The act is meant to give employees a way to fulfill family or health issues by taking unpaid time off work and still be able to retain their jobs. The Family Medical Leave Act allows for up 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain situations.

It also levels the playing field for men and women. Maternity leave is a good example. A mother can take up to a total of 12 weeks off after giving birth and still retain her job. Without FMLA, a mother might have to return back to work almost directly after giving birth to a baby in order to keep her job. Under FMLA, either parent can stay home for a period of time with a newborn or newly adopted child for up to a total of 12 weeks. If both parents work for the same employer, they can split the 12 weeks between them.

Who all is covered under FMLA? All public state, local and federal agency employees are covered under FMLA. Also, local school employees are covered. In the private sector, employers who employ more than 50 employees for at least 20 weeks a year are required to grant FMLA. The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, worked at least 1250 hours a year and worked at a location or within 75 miles of the location where at least 50 employees are employed.

What circumstances are covered under FMLA? The birth of a newborn child, as well as time spent home with the infant -- up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave -- is covered under FMLA. The adoption of a child is considered by FMLA as equivalent to giving birth to a biological child and is covered in the same way. A family member who is seriously injured or has a serious illness is a legitimate circumstance for taking unpaid leave under FMLA, as well as an employee who is suffering from a serious illness or injury.

Employers have an obligation to grant FMLA to employees who have a legitimate reason for a leave of absence as defined under the act. If you have questions about your eligibility or believe you were incorrectly denied FMLA, an attorney can provide answers.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "The Family and Medical Leave Act," accessed Jan. 13, 2016

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