Many employers offer vacation time and sick leave to help accommodate employees who need to miss work. However, in some cases, employees need to leave work for long periods of time and have not been able to accrue enough vacation time or sick leave. Fortunately, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can receive additional leave under certain circumstances.

The FMLA provides many employees with 12 weeks of unpaid leave over a period of 12 months. During this period of unpaid leave, the FMLA will protect the job of the employee. That way, at the end of the period of leave, the employee will be able to return to their original job or an equivalent job.

Qualifying for the FMLA

The purpose of the leave must align with at least one of the medical and family reasons included in the statute. Reasons for leave include the following:

  • The employee needs to give birth to or care for a newborn child.
  • An adopted or foster child has been placed with the employee.
  • The employee is suffering from a major health condition.
  • The employee needs to care for a child, spouse, or parent suffering from a serious health condition.

Additionally, employees who are part of military families can take a leave if a covered service member is involved in a contingency operation and is, or will be, on active duty. If a covered servicemember has suffered a debilitating illness or injury, the FMLA allows up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave rather than 12 weeks.

Not all employees qualify for FMLA leave. An employee is eligible for FMLA if they have the following qualifications:

  • The individual’s employer is covered.
  • The employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months prior to taking leave and has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during these 12 months. These 12 months don’t have to be continuous, but the clock resets if there is a gap of more than seven years.
  • The employee works at a location with at least 50 employees or works within 75 miles of a location with at least 50 employees.

Sick leave and vacation time is not always sufficient for employees who need to take leave. As a result, many employees in the United States depend on the FMLA to not only provide them with unpaid leave, but to also ensure they will be able to return to their original job after the period of unemployment.

Unfortunately, not all employers respect the rights afforded to their employees by the FMLA. In these cases, an employment law attorney may have to stand up for the rights of the employee under the law.