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FMLA Notice Requirements - Employee

As an employee, you have federally protected rights. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects an employee's right to take a leave of absence for several reasons. Those reasons include the employee's serious health condition, a serious injury, an injury to a family member, or the opportunity to bond with a child. The FMLA also allows leave to spend time with a spouse before they go on active military duty.

Eligible employees of covered employers can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for an FMLA-qualifying reason.

To get time off under federal law, employees must give notice to employers in a reasonable manner. Employees have different FMLA notice requirements depending on the situation. However, there are general guidelines for leave requests.

Information Required for FMLA Notice

FMLA leave usually starts with an employee's request for time off. You can provide verbal or written notice to your employer of your need for FMLA leave. Employees must tell employers when they need to take time off and the amount of leave needed. You don't have to mention the FMLA by name. 

When you request time off, it's up to your employer to determine if the work absence is unpaid FMLA leave, but you must give your employer enough information to know whether the work absence is FMLA-protected.

Sufficient information may include any of the following:

  • That you are unable to perform the functions of your job based on a given medical condition
  • That you are pregnant
  • That you have been hospitalized overnight
  • Whether you or your family member is receiving ongoing care from a health care provider
  • Whether the leave relates to a qualifying emergency and a military member is on active duty
  • A family member's condition makes it hard for them to do everyday activities, including military service members
  • The anticipated length of the absence, if known

Sometimes, bosses might ask workers to provide medical certification showing they need time off. Healthcare providers complete these forms to explain that the requested leave qualifies under the FMLA. The forms also provide additional supporting information to employers.

Employers can set a formal policy for requesting leave. They can require that employees comply except when such compliance is impossible. For example, if you need emergency medical care, you probably immediately qualify for FMLA leave.

Foreseeable Absence

The FMLA requires that employees provide notice as soon as practicable for expected absences, including military family leave. You must give your employer 30 days advance notice if your need for FMLA leave is foreseeable. Foreseeable instances include the expected birth of a child or a planned medical treatment.

The individual facts and circumstances surrounding the FMLA request determine whether or not an employee gave notice as soon as practicable.

Unforeseeable Absence

Sometimes employees require FMLA leave at a moment's notice, with little or no opportunity to provide advance notice. Federal law only requires that employees give their employers reasonable notice, or as soon as practicable, given the facts and circumstances of the case.

For example, if your elderly mother breaks her hip and needs your immediate assistance, you may have to catch a flight the next morning. Leaving a message with your employer informing them of your impending leave might be short notice, but it's certainly as soon as practicable within the meaning of the law.

Employer Notice Requirements

Employers have several notice requirements under the FMLA.

First, employers must display an informative poster. In addition to displaying the poster, employers must provide a general notice in the employee handbook containing the same information as the poster.

Second, when an employee asks for FMLA leave or the employer learns the worker needs time off for FMLA-qualifying leave, the employer must determine whether the employee is eligible for leave based on criteria such as the number of hours worked. If the worker has FMLA leave entitlement, the employer must provide the worker with an Eligibility Notice, either verbally or in writing, within five business days of the request. If the worker is not eligible for FMLA leave, the employer must explain why.

The employer must also provide a written Rights and Responsibilities Notice. The notice will include the 12-month period used to track the leave and whether you must provide medical certification of the need for leave. The notice must also explain whether you must use any available paid leave, among other things.

The employer must also provide a Designation Notice. This notice explains that the leave is FMLA leave. Your employer will also let you know as part of this form whether you must provide fitness-for-duty certification before your return to work. Your right to job reinstatement may be denied if you do not provide this certification.

FMLA Notice and Normal Call-In Procedures

You should follow your employer's normal procedures for calling in sick, even if your reason for requesting FMLA leave is valid. As FMLA regulations state, failure to follow an employer's normal call-in procedures may delay or even cause denial of an FMLA leave request. The exception is circumstances that prevent you from doing so, such as being knocked unconscious in a serious accident.


The U.S. Department of Labor, specifically its Wage and Hour Division (WHD), investigates FMLA leave and notices complaints. An employer's failure to follow the notice requirements may be retaliation or interference with your right to take FMLA leave. Both are forbidden under the FMLA and can lead to employer sanctions.

Get Legal Help Understanding FMLA Notice Requirements

As an employee, it's important to understand your rights when dealing with an FMLA matter. If you have questions about your responsibilities or rights as an employee, you should speak with a knowledgeable employment law attorney in your area.

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