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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): An Overview

Gerald Mayer
Analyst in Labor Policy

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), as amended, is intended to help employees balance work and family life. The act provides eligible employees with two types of job-protected leave: regular leave and military family leave. In turn, military family leave consists of qualifying exigency leave and military caregiver leave. 

Eligible employees.
Under the FMLA, an eligible employee is an employee who has worked for the employer for at least 12 months (the 12 months need not be consecutive), has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the start of FMLA leave, and is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of that worksite. 

Covered employers.
The FMLA covers both private and public sector employers. The FMLA covers private employers who employed at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the preceding or current calendar year. Public agencies are covered by the FMLA regardless of the number of employees. To be eligible for FMLA leave, public employees must meet the above employee eligibility requirements of the act. Public agencies include the federal government and state and local governments. A “state” includes the District of Columbia and the territories and possessions of the United States. 

Job-protected leave.
After returning from FMLA leave, employees generally have the right to return to the same, or an equivalent, job with the same pay, benefits, and working conditions. Paid versus unpaid leave. FMLA leave is generally unpaid leave. An employee may, however, substitute accrued paid leave for FMLA leave. Private employers may require an employee to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid leave. While an employee is on FMLA leave, an employer must maintain the employee’s group health insurance coverage. 

Regular FMLA leave
. An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave for the birth and care of a child; to care for an adopted or foster child; to care for a spouse, a child under age 18, or a parent with a serious health condition; or because the employee is unable to work because of his or her own serious health condition.

The 12 weeks of FMLA leave need not be continuous. If there is a medical need, an employee may take “intermittent” leave or work a part-time schedule. Although it is not required, an employer may agree to allow an employee to take intermittent or part-time leave for the birth or care of a child or to care for an adopted or foster child. 

Military family leave
. Eligible employees may take two types of military family leave. The first type of leave is for a qualifying exigency. Qualifying exigencies include a “short notice deployment” (which is a notice that a member of the employee’s family will be deployed in seven days or less); time for the employee to arrange for childcare, make financial or legal arrangements, or attend official ceremonies; time to care for a parent of a military member if the parent is incapable of self-care; and up to 15 days of leave for the employee to spend time with a member of the military who is on temporary leave for rest and recuperation during a deployment.

The second type of military family leave is military caregiver leave. An employee who is the spouse, son or daughter (of any age), parent, or next of kin of a covered servicemember with a

serious injury or illness can take up to 26 weeks of leave during a 12-month period to care for the servicemember. 

Airline flight crews
. The FMLA has special rules that apply to airline pilots, flight attendants, and other airline crewmembers. A member of an airline flight crew is eligible for FMLA leave if he or she worked (1) at least 504 hours during the previous 12-month period for the employer and (2) at least 60% of the minimum number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work in any given month or, for an employee who is in “reserve status,” at least 60% of the hours that an employee was paid for any given month. The hours that airline flight crews work include the hours spent in flight and the hours that a crewmember is on duty but not in flight. The hours that a crewmember is on duty may include hours between flights or hours during which a crewmember is on reserve status waiting to be called to duty.

Date of Report: August 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: R42758
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