When your work demands collide with family responsibilities — a spouse's illness or the birth of a child — you may be eligible for unpaid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA applies to employers with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the workplace. In order to be eligible, you must have worked there for at least 12 months for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period.
Under FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period with job reinstatement privileges. As such, employers must return the employee to the same or equivalent job position once an employee returns from FMLA leave. Keep in mind that some state laws provide greater family leave benefits than the FMLA, such as paid leave and broader coverage.
FMLA Eligibility Requirements — Who is Covered?
FMLA leave is not available to every employee. FMLA eligibility requires the following criteria:
- The employee must have been employed with the company for at least 12 months before requesting leave
- The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before the start of FMLA leave
- The employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the worksite
FMLA Eligible Leave — What is Covered?
The purpose of FMLA is to provide a means for families to balance both work and medical or personal needs without sacrificing their job security. An employee may request FMLA for any of the following reasons:
- To prepare for the birth of a child
- To care for a newborn child
- For adoption or foster care placement of a son or daughter
- To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition
- To take care of the employees own serious health condition
- To transition employees or spouses who are called to active duty
12 Months of Employment
To qualify for FMLA, an employee's 12 months of employment need not be consecutive. However, breaks in service of seven years or more are not counted toward an employee's years of service unless the break was based on an employee's military obligations or written agreement.
1,250 Hours of Service
For purposes of determining FMLA eligibility, "hours of service" means hours that the employee has actually worked. This does not include vacations, holidays, sick days, or other situations where an employee was away from work (whether paid or unpaid). In addition, the 1,250-hour requirement must be met within the 12-month period before the start of the leave.
50 Employees within a 75 Mile Radius
Private sector employers are required to employ 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius each working day during the preceding calendar year for FMLA eligibility. On the other hand, public agencies (such as state and federal governments) are not held to the "50 employee" rule, and therefore most federal employees are eligible for FMLA.
Even if employees at a company's large headquarters are eligible for FMLA, employees at a smaller, remote location might not be eligible if the location does not include at least 50 employees within the 75-mile radius.
FMLA Eligibility Notice
Once an employee requests FMLA leave — or an employer learns of a worker's qualifying reason for leave — employers are required to grant FMLA leave within five business days. Learn more about FMLA notice requirements for employers
Alternative FMLA Leave Options
Employers who need time off for medical reasons but who are not covered by FMLA should discuss alternative forms of leave with their employer. In some cases, employers may grant unpaid time off based on the the business' needs.
Sometimes an employee may also use vacation or sick time as an alternative, if FMLA is not an option, or they may consider taking short-term or long-term disability if it's offered through the employer. Check with your manager or Human Resources department to learn about your company's leave policies.
Are You Entitled to FMLA Leave? Get Help From an Attorney Today
If you need help determining your FMLA eligibility or reasons for leave denial, you may need help from a legal professional. Find an employment law attorney experienced in FMLA-related matters near you today.
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