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Q&A: What is FMLA?

FMLA is short for the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that provides employees with unpaid, job protected leave and benefits continuation in certain circumstances. People also commonly call leave under this law FMLA, as in “I’m going on FMLA.” FMLA generally provides 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period (more if caring for an injured or ill service member).

To take FMLA leave, an employee must work for a covered employer, be eligible, and be using the leave for a covered reason. Let’s look at each in turn.

An employer is a covered employer if they have 50 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or previous year.

An employee is eligible if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the 12 months before the leave, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

The following are covered reasons for leave under FMLA:

  • The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth
  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for that child within one year of placement
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform an essential function of their job
  • Any qualifying exigency because the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a military member on active duty
  • FMLA has detailed requirements, which you can learn more about on the platform.
    Answer from Kara, JD, SPHR:
    Kara practiced employment law for five years and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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