How Does FMLA Work?

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The FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) is a relatively new law that allows certain employees to take leave to care for a family member without fear of losing his job. It also allows the employee to take time off without fear of losing his job if that employee is sick and cannot perform the job because of his illness. As of 2009, if an active-duty military member is hurt in the line of duty, the FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of leave for nonmilitary family members or 26 weeks of leave for military family members for the member's immediate family member to care for him.


In order for an employer to be required to provide leave for its employees, the employer must be a public employer, such as a state, local or federal agency or a school. A private-sector employer that employs 50 or more people throughout 20 or more weeks during the year and or during the preceding calendar year must provide the requested leave for an employee and must hold that employee's job. Employers can hire temporary workers to fill the position for the time that the employee is on leave.


If an employee works for a qualified employer, that employer must grant unpaid leave to the employee if an immediate family member becomes ill and the employee must stay home to take care of the family member. Immediate family members include spouses, parents and children. If the employee has paid time "stored up," the employer may allow the employee to use the paid time owed. This will count toward the 26 weeks of leave (you cannot take three weeks of paid vacation, then expect an additional 26 weeks of leave---the leave is a maximum of 26 weeks).

In order for an employee to be eligible for FMLA benefits, the employee must work for a covered employer (see Employers section), must have worked for the employer for a full year, and must have worked at least 1,250 hours. In addition, the location of employment must be within the United States or a United States territory.

The 12 months do not need to be consecutive, as long as they were within seven years. If the break was because of an employee's service with the National Guard or the Reserves, the employer must count months worked prior to a break in service of seven years.


About the Author

Cayden Conor has been writing since 1996. She has been published on several websites and in the winter 1996 issue of "QECE." Conor specializes in home and garden, dogs, legal, automotive and business subjects, with years of hands-on experience in these areas. She has an Associate of Science (paralegal) from Manchester Community College and studied computer science, criminology and education at University of Tampa.