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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Basics

Understanding what the FMLA means to you


Created: March 9, 2004


Chronic headaches and Migraines, as well as other health conditions, can cause us to miss work, thus creating problems with our employment and employers. As this is a topic of great concern to so many of us, let's take a look at the United States Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).

Synopsis of the Law
Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

On the surface, that looks fairly simple, but we need to take a look at some definitions:

  • covered employers: An employer covered by FMLA is any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employers covered by FMLA also include any person acting, directly or indirectly, in the interest of a covered employer to any of the employees of the employer, any successor in interest of a covered employer, and any public agency. Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. Public as well as private elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. Click HERE for more detail.
  • eligible employee: An "eligible employee'' is an employee of a covered employer who:
    (1) Has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months, and
    (2) Has been employed for at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave, and
    (3) Is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of that worksite. Click HERE for more detail.
  • serious health condition: The term "serious health condition" means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves
    (A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
    (B) continuing treatment by a health care provider. Click HERE for more detail.
  • health care provider:
    • doctors of medicine or osteopathy authorized to practice medicine or surgery by the state in which the doctors practice; or
    • podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists and chiropractors (limited to manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist) authorized to practice, and performing within the scope of their practice, under state law; or
    • nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and clinical social workers authorized to practice, and performing within the scope of their practice, as defined under state law; or
    • Christian Science practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts; or
    • Any health care provider recognized by the employer or the employer's group health plan benefits manager.

Essentially, FMLA entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons. The employer may elect to use the calendar year, a fixed 12-month leave or fiscal year, or a 12-month period prior to or after the commencement of leave as the 12-month period. Here is more information to help you learn about what FMLA benefits may be available to you:

More information on FMLA can be found at the web site of the U.S. Department of Labor.

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