What is FMLA? [Ask An HR Expert]

April 20, 2022

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Question: What is FMLA?

According to Kara, JD, SPHR, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is a federal law that provides employees with unpaid, job-protected leave and benefits continuation in certain circumstances. People also commonly call leave under this law FMLA, as in “I’m going on FMLA.” Employees are generally entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. Those dealing with an injured or ill service member can get even more leave.

To take FMLA leave, an employee must work for a covered employer, be eligible, and use the leave for a covered reason. Let’s look at each in turn.

An employer is covered if they have 50 or more employees for 20 or more weeks in the current or previous year.

If you’re an employee, there are a few requirements for eligibility: you must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months; clocked 1,250 hours for the employer in the last year; and work at a place with a minimum of 50 employees within 75 miles.

There are a number of covered reasons for leave under FMLA, such as giving birth, caring for a new child within one year of adoption or birth, taking care of your spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition, or if you become ill or injured yourself and need to take time off from work. FMLA also provides qualifying exigency leave because the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a military member on active duty

  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform an essential function of their job
  • Any qualifying exigency because the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a military member on active duty

There are lots of details involved when considering FMLA – so make sure to check out all the available resources to get up to speed!

Kara, JD, SPHR

Kara practiced employment law for five years and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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