Family and Medical Leave Act

Q: What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

A: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires some employers to let their employees take time off work to recover from an illness, care for an ill family member, or attend to the birth or adoption of a child (29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq.).

Q: Are you protected by the FMLA?

A: The FMLA does not protect all employees. To be protected by the FMLA:

  • You must work for a company that has 50 or more employees within 75-miles of your workplace; and
  • You must have worked for your employer for at least 1 year and worked actually at least 1,250 hours in that year (about 25 hrs/ week) (29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)).

Q: So, you’re protected by the FMLA…How does that help you?

A: If you are protected by the FMLA, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in any 12 month period. You can take leave to:

  • Recover from a serious health condition that prevents you from performing the functions of your job.
  • Care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition.
  • Give birth or adopt a child. Both mothers and fathers can take leave for the birth, adoption, and care of a new child (29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)).

Q: What is considered a “serious” health condition?

A: A “serious” health condition is a physical or mental condition that requires inpatient care at a medical facility or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider (29 U.S.C. § 2611(11)). Your employer may require you to get a doctor’s excuse (29 U.S.C. § 2613). You may take leave to aid a family member with a serious illness. However, for you to take leave to care for yourself, your serious illness must prevent you from doing your job.

Q: Must you give your employer notice before taking leave?

A: Yes. If it’s possible, you must give 30 days notice before taking leave. If 30 days notice is impossible, you must give whatever notice

Q: After leave, will you return to your old job?

A: Probably. Most employees must be returned to their old job, or to a position with the same pay, benefits, and conditions of employment. Only the highest earning employees may be prevented from returning to their old (or an equivalent) job, and only if returning to the old job would seriously injure the employer (29 U.S.C. § 2614(a), (b))

Q: Will you lose your health insurance while on leave?

A: No. If you are insured before you go on leave, your employer must continue to cover you while on leave. If you normally pay part of the premium, you must continue to do so (29 U.S.C. § 2614(c)).

Q: What do you do if your employer refuses to recognize your rights under the FMLA?

A: Hopefully, once your employer sees that you know your rights, he or she will give you the time off work permitted by the FMLA. However, if your employer refuses to recognize your FMLA rights, you should contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Your employer may not retaliate against you for asserting your FMLA rights and contacting the Wage and Hour Division.

You can reach the Wage and Hour Division at:
US Dept. of Labor, ESA Wage & Hour Division
Federal Building
1000 Liberty Ave., Room 313
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Phone: (412) 395-4996