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FMLA Basics

Posted by attorney George Barron

Family Medical Leave Act

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA"), covered employers are required to provide eligible employees with time off from work to deal with serious health condition faced by the employee or the employee’s immediate family members.

Important terms to understand:

Eligible employee = a worker has been employed for at least 12 months and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours (about 25 hours per week).

Covered employer = a public or private employer with 50 or more workers in a 75 mile radius. Usually not much debate over this.

Serious health condition = “ an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or (B) continuing treatment by a health care provider." This is where the problems start. Courts are constantly making decisions that change the practical definition of “serious health condition".

The employer does not have to pay the employee for FMLA time. The FMLA simply means that, within the limits of the FMLA, the covered employer may not fire an eligible employee for taking FMLA time, up to 12 weeks per year, to deal with serious health conditions suffered by themselves or an immediate family member. The time doesn’t have to be used all at once – in fact it can be used an hour or two at a time in some case. Another complication is the employer’s calculation of those 12 weeks. FMLA lets the employer count the 12 weeks in many different ways – 12 weeks in a calendar year, 12 weeks from the last FMLA use, etc.

FMLA is very complicated. Doctors don’t understand it. Employees don’t understand it. Employers don’t understand it.

If you have questions about FMLA, ask an emloyment lawyer

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