The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

When an employee or their family member experiences a serious health condition that requires the employee to take an extended amount of time off from work, they may qualify for FMLA to protect their job and benefits while they are away. As an employer, you need to understand how FMLA works in order to protect both you and your employees. Here are some basic things you should know about FMLA to insure that you are in compliance.


-Employers with 50 or more employees for the majority of the prior calendar year must offer FMLA to their qualifying employees. If you have different work-site locations and 50 employees are not located within 75 miles of where the employee works, FMLA does not apply.

-Employees must have been employed for the past 12 months and during those 12 months worked at least 1,250 hours.

-The employee, or a qualifying family member, must have a serious health condition that makes them unable to work for more than three consecutive days. On-going medical treatments that require shorter periods of time off may also qualify. The birth or adoption of a child also allows for leave.

-The Department of Labor (DOL) defines a family member as a spouse, child or parent. Be aware that due to the Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015, spouse now includes same-sex marriages. Siblings, grandparents and other extended family members do not qualify.

-The leave can be up to 12 weeks. It does not have to be a paid leave; however, it is suggested that you require the employee to use any accrued sick, vacation or PTO time while out on the leave.

-The employee’s job must be protected while on leave. This means that if the employee is able to return to work before or at the end of the leave, they must be reinstated to either the same position or one nearly identical to it in regards to pay, duties, leave, etc.

-The employer is required to continue the employee’s health insurance as if they were not on leave. However, the employee can be required to pay their normal portion of the premiums as they become due while on leave.

-You can’t make FMLA retroactive so as soon as you believe an employee might be out for more than three days, it is wise to begin the FMLA process. You don’t want to have an employee off work for a period of time and then have to grant them an additional 12 weeks of leave.

-The employee is required to provide notice of leave at least 30 days in advance, if possible. If the leave is unexpected, employees must inform their employer as soon as reasonably possible. Employees are required to provide sufficient information to their employer that proves the leave is qualified.

-Employers are required to notify an employee seeking leave whether or not they qualify for the leave within five days of the employee’s request.


There is much more to FMLA than what is contained in this article. The DOL has some great resources under the Wage & Hour division that you can reference in regards to forms, etc. There is also a guide book that will walk you through the entire FMLA process. (