Family and Medical Leave

In modern families, two-income households that juggle responsibilities of work and the home are almost status quo across the United States.  With this societal trend, legislation protecting a workers right to care for their family, as well as remain an employee, has somewhat lagged behind.  The most expansive legislative action to address these issues, however, is known as The Family Medical Leave Act.

FMLA: The Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees the most protection when balancing the double task of home and work. The Act is one of the most comprehensive federal employment laws in that it affords protections for all workers, both public and private sector. This federal law provides workers a number of protections and allowances pertaining to numerous family and health related instances that commonly occur.  Some of the protections of the FMLA include:

  • Eligibility for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in a one year period due to childbirth, child adoption, family members’ health needs, or the health needs of an employee
  • Protection of the employees position upon return to work
  • Continuation of employer payments into benefit contributions, such as insurance policy premiums received prior to taking leave
  • Strong legal protections for employees from their employers attempting to subvert the policies of the FMLA

Covered Employees under the FMLA

The Family Medical Leave Act covers all workers employed by companies containing fifty or more employees.  To meet the requirements for being an eligible worker under the FMLA provisions, an employee must have:

  • Been employed by current employer for at least twelve months
  • And worked for their employer at least 1,250 hours in the preceding twelve months

Coverage Restrictions Found in the FMLA

Congress included a number of provisions in the Family Medical Leave Act in anticipation of specialized occupations and employment situations where the laws would cause serious problems for smaller or specialized operations.  In most cases, however, modern employers adhere to a much simpler plan of granting all employees protection under the FMLA, if some of their employees are deemed mandatorily covered.  Legally, however, employers are not required to do so per the provisions of the FMLA.  Some of the notable coverage restrictions found in the FMLA include:

  • Companies with fewer than fifty employees on payroll within a seventy-five mile radius do not need to adhere to the FMLA protections for their workers
  • The FMLA also includes coverage restrictions for the highest paid ten percent of a company’s workers, in theory to protect vital leadership within a corporate organization
  • Schoolteachers and full-time instructors are partially exempt from FMLA protections to facilitate the continuous educational process of students
  • Unless in the event of a personal medical reason, a husband and wife working for the same employer can only share their total of twelve weeks off between the two of them

In the ideal situation, employees will offer their employer thirty days notice of leave per the FMLA if the medical or family situation is deemed foreseeable.  Given the nature of illness and injury, the protections of the FMLA can theoretically begin without any advance warning by employees or approval from employers.

Provisions Granted by the FMLA

A number of provisions were provided for by the federal government for employees with passing of the FMLA.  In short, the much-needed laws regarding time off for illness and childbirth were concretely established by the government.  The Family Medical Leave Act possesses a number of provisions for workers, including:

  • Up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth, adoption of a child, or placement of a foster child.  These twelve weeks must be taken in succession within a year of the arrival of a new child.
  • Up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for an employee to take care of an injured or ill dependent under the age of eighteen, or any dependent eighteen or older that cannot care for themselves in the event of an injury or illness
  • Up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for an employee to take care of psychological or physical illness of themselves, their spouse, or their parents, excluding in-laws
  • Up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to deal with personal and serious healthcare issues, which require an overnight hospital stay or at least three days absence from work

Page 2: Enforcement and Rights of Employees


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