What does the FMLA mean for you?

The Family and Medical Leave Act is the federal law that allows you up to 12 weeks’ leave from your job each year to handle your or your family’s medical situations. As FindLaw explains, however, this law applies to you only if you and your employer qualify for it. 

You qualify if you work for a federal, state or local government agency or a school. Otherwise, your employer must employ at least 50 workers for at least 20 workweeks during a given 12-month period. Either way, you must meet the following additional eligibility requirements: 

  • Work for your employer at least 12 months before taking a FMLA leave 
  • Alternatively, work at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to your leave 
  • Work at a location where at least 49 other employees work 
  • Alternatively, work at a location within 75 miles of one that employs at least 50 workers 

Qualifying FMLA leave situations

Your reason for requesting the leave must likewise qualify under FMLA rules and regulations. Qualifying situations include the following: 

  • You have a serious medical condition. 
  • You must care for a family member who has a serious medical condition. 
  • You just gave birth to and must care for your child. 
  • You just adopted and must care for a new child. 
  • Your spouse, child or parent has a “qualifying exigency” because of his or her active military service or a call to serve in the National Guard or Reserve for a contingency operation. 

Job protection

Keep in mind that FMLA does not guarantee you a paid leave, only an unpaid one. Your employer, however, cannot fire you or lay you off for requesting and taking such a leave. It can, nevertheless, require you to use any accrued paid leave you have as part of your FMLA leave as long as it gives you proper notification.