The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was the first piece of national legislation designed to help working Americans meet the demands of work and family. It essentially requires certain government and private sector employers to grant employees unpaid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or a seriously ill relative or to recover from their own serious health problems--and ensure their job security while they're gone.
What the FMLA Covers
The FMLA applies to all government employers, including schools, and private-sector employers that have 50 or more employees in 20 or more work weeks. These employers must allow an employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period under the following conditions:
For the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee For the new placement of an adopted or foster care child For the care of a spouse, child or parent with a serious medical issue For recovery when the employee is unable to work because of hisown serious health condition
In addition to allowing the unpaid leave, employers covered under the FMLA must post information regarding workers' rights under the FMLA for employees to view, which can include a poster in a worker's lounge area, a notice given upon hire or a policy in an employee handbook, among other means.
Upon an employee requesting FMLA leave, the employer must notify the employee of her eligibility to take leave and her rights and responsibilities under the law. If FMLA is requested for medical care, employers can require an employee to submit documentation from a health care provider.
FMLA employers must also maintain the employee's health benefits under the same terms, and upon the employee's return, place that employee in the same job or an equivalent job.
What FMLA Does Not Cover
The FMLA does not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees; employees who have worked for the employer for less than a year or fewer than 1,250 hours; employees working outside the United States or its territories; and part-time employees.
State law applies. Some states, including the District of Columbia, have similar laws that provide more time off or additional benefits. Employees in DC, for example, can take up to 16 weeks of leave.
New amendments to FMLA allow up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a seriously injured service member.
If an employer employs a married couple, the time they are allowed to take must total 12 weeks; employers are not required to grant two consecutive 12-week leaves.
The law provides for taking leave in stints rather than one full 12-week block.
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