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Family and Medical Leave Act: What employees must know

When you become ill or have to care for someone in your family who is sick, you might have to take off of work. Other medical and family situations, such as the birth of a baby or the adoption of a child, might also necessitate time off of work. In all of these cases, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) might be a viable option.

There are many misconceptions about the FMLA. If you think that you will need coverage, make sure that you fully understand when coverage applies in your circumstances.

Who is covered by the FMLA?

Employees only have coverage under FMLA if they've worked for the employer for 12 months or longer and have put in at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months of time directly before the leave is requested. The employer must be a covered employer who employs at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius.

What is a covered employer?

The requirements for covered employers vary depending on what type of business the company does. A public agency, such as a government agency, must cover employees regardless of how many people are employed there. All elementary and secondary schools must do the same. For private employers to qualify, they must have employed at least 50 employees for a minimum of 20 weeks in the previous or current calendar year.

What does the FMLA entitle employees to receive?

Eligible employees can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period. There are some exceptions to this. One of the most notable is that eligible family members can have up to 26 work-weeks off to take care of a service member who has a serious illness or injury.

There is also the possibility that employees might be able to work on a reduced schedule. This would usually require the approval of the employer, especially if the reason is due to a family condition instead of a medical one.

What conditions are eligible for the FMLA?

The birth, adoption or foster placement of a child qualifies workers for the FMLA. The employee's own serious medical condition that prevents him or her from being able to do the necessary job duties is another qualifier. The same is true if a parent, spouse or child has a serious health condition.

There are times when employers will try to deny claims that should be valid. In these cases, the employee might opt to take further action to get the leave time to which they are entitled.

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