Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act
Revised February 2023
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job-protected leave from work for family and medical reasons. This fact sheet explains FMLA benefits and protections.
ABOUT THE FMLA
The FMLA provides eligible employees of covered employers with job-protected leave for qualifying family and medical reasons and requires continuation of their group health benefits under the same conditions as if they had not taken leave. FMLA leave may be unpaid or used at the same time as employer-provided paid leave. Employees must be restored to the same or virtually identical position when they return to work after FMLA leave.
Eligible employees: Employees are eligible if they work for a covered employer for at least 12 months, have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the 12 months before their FMLA leave starts, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
Covered employers: Covered employers under the FMLA include:
- Private-sector employers who employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in either the current calendar year or previous calendar year,
- Public agencies (including Federal, State, and local government employers, regardless of the number of employees), and
- Local educational agencies (including public school boards, public elementary and secondary schools, and private elementary and secondary schools, regardless of the number of employees).
The FMLA protects leave for:
- The birth of a child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care,
- The care for a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition,
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to work, and
- Reasons related to a family member’s service in the military, including
- Qualifying exigency leave - Leave for certain reasons related to a family member’s foreign deployment, and
- Military caregiver leave – leave when a family member is a current servicemember or recent veteran with a serious injury or illness.
Download “The Employee Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act” for more information about the FMLA, including how to request FMLA leave.
USING FMLA LEAVE
Eligible employees may take:
- Up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for any FMLA leave reason except military caregiver leave, and
- Up to 26 workweeks of military caregiver leave during a single 12-month period.
- Sheila works 32 hours a week at a shoe store. When Sheila needs to take FMLA leave for 12 weeks, she may use up to 32 hours of FMLA leave a week for 12 weeks.
- Chester works 40 hours a week as an administrative assistant. When Chester needs to take FMLA leave for 12 weeks, he may use up to 40 hours of FMLA leave a week for 12 weeks.
- Kayden works 50 hours a week as a cook at a restaurant. When Kayden needs to take FMLA leave for 12 weeks, he may use up to 50 hours of FMLA leave a week for 12 weeks.
Intermittent or reduced schedule leave. Employees have the right to take FMLA leave all at once, or, when medically necessary, in separate blocks of time or by reducing the time they work each day or week. Intermittent or reduced schedule leave is also available for military family leave reasons. However, employees may use FMLA leave intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule for bonding with a newborn or newly placed child only if they and their employer agree.
- Sheila has a daughter who serves in the Armed Forces and was seriously injured during deployment overseas. Sheila needs FMLA leave for one-half of her usual workweek (16 hours) over the next six months to assist with her daughter’s care.
- Chester has a serious mental health condition that sometimes affects his ability to work. Occasionally, when Chester is unable to work because of his mental health, he takes FMLA leave, usually for one to three weeks at a time. Chester also takes FMLA leave every now and then for an hour or two when he has an appointment to see his doctor or attend therapy to treat his condition.
- Kayden, a cook, works Tuesday through Saturday. His father, Emile, has a serious health condition. Kayden and his wife, Maeve, take turns bringing Emile to dialysis during the week. Every other Friday evening Kayden uses five hours of FMLA leave to help his father. Even though his wife helps, Kayden also occasionally uses five hours of FMLA leave on other evenings to help his father.
Paid leave. FMLA is job-protected, unpaid leave. Employees may use employer provided paid leave at the same time that they take FMLA leave if the reason they are using FMLA leave is covered by the employer’s paid leave policy. An employer may also require an employee to use their paid leave during FMLA leave.
- Sheila works for a shoe store that provides her with one week of paid vacation time every year. The store always requires employees to use their paid vacation time when they take time off from work for any reason, even if they are not taking a vacation. When Sheila takes 16 hours of FMLA leave because of her daughter’s deployment with the Armed Forces to a foreign country, her employer pays her for her FMLA time off and deducts 16 hours from her one week of vacation time.
- When Chester needs FMLA leave for his own serious health condition, he uses paid sick leave that is part of his job benefits.
- The restaurant where Kayden works provides him paid sick leave that he can use for his own health needs but not for family care. Kayden also has other paid time off (PTO) that he uses when he takes leave to care for his father who has a serious health condition.
Requesting FMLA leave. Employees do not have to specifically ask for FMLA leave but do need to provide enough information so the employer is aware the leave may be covered by the FMLA. Employees must provide notice to their employer as soon as possible and practical that they will need to use FMLA leave. For example, if an employee knows that they have a procedure for a serious medical condition scheduled in three weeks, the employee needs to provide notice to the employer as soon as the procedure is scheduled. Employers may ask for information from the heath care provider before approving FMLA leave and must allow 15 calendar days to provide the information. In some circumstances, such as when the employee’s health care provider is not able to complete the certification information timely, employees must be allowed additional time.
FMLA LEAVE BENEFITS AND PROTECTIONS
Job protection. Employees who use FMLA leave have the right to go back to work at their same job or to an equivalent job that has the same pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment at the end of their FMLA leave. Violations of an employee’s FMLA rights may include changing the number of shifts assigned to the employee, moving the employee to a location outside of their normal commuting area, or denying the employee a bonus for which they qualified before their FMLA leave.
An employer cannot threaten, discriminate against, punish, suspend, or fire an employee because they requested or used FMLA leave. Violations of an employee’s FMLA rights may include actions such as writing up the employee for missing work when using FMLA leave, denying a promotion because the employee has used FMLA leave, or assessing negative attendance points for FMLA leave use.
Group health plan benefits. Employers are required to continue group health insurance coverage for an employee on FMLA leave under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. For example, if family member coverage is provided to an employee, family member coverage must be maintained during the employee’s FMLA leave.
SPECIAL FMLA RULES FOR SOME WORKERS
FMLA Leave and Teachers. Special rules apply to employees of elementary schools, secondary schools, and school boards. Generally, these rules apply when an employee needs intermittent leave or leave near the end of a school term.
FMLA Eligibility for Flight Crews. Airline flight crew employees have special hours of service eligibility requirements. For more information about the special rules for flight crew employees, see Fact Sheet #28J.
FMLA Eligibility for Servicemembers under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
Returning servicemembers are entitled to receive all rights and benefits of employment that they would have obtained if they had been continuously employed. Any period of absence from work due to USERRA-covered service counts toward an employee’s months and hours of service requirements for FMLA leave eligibility.
Some States have their own family and medical leave laws. Nothing in the FMLA prevents employees from receiving protections under other laws. Workers have the right to benefit from all the laws that apply.
Protection from Retaliation
FMLA is a federal worker protection law. Employers are prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any FMLA right. Any violations of the FMLA or the FMLA regulations constitute interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of rights provided by the FMLA. For more information about prohibited employer retaliation under the FMLA, see Fact Sheet #77B and Field Assistance Bulletin 2022-2.
The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA for most employees. If you believe that your rights under the FMLA have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit against your employer in court. State employees may be subject to certain limitations in pursuit of direct lawsuits regarding leave for their own serious health conditions. Most Federal and certain congressional employees are also covered by the law but are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or Congress.
Where to Obtain Additional Information
For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website: http://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd and/or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).
This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.