What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Picture of Close-up Of A Person's Hand Holding Pen Over Paid Family Leave Form With Spectacles

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 or FMLA, is a federal labor law that protects employees by requiring employers to provide employees with job-protected, unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.

How Does The FMLA Work?

The FMLA provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year; this also requires that the employer’s group health benefits be maintained during the leave. This law protects employees from a wide-range of fields, including but not limited to all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. This law is also applicable to military service men and women. 

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer (1) at least 12 months, (2) at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and (3) work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. It is important to understand that the employer has complete discretion as to whether it will pay an employee or not during their leave as well as to whether these weeks can be accumulated or not, the same way that paid time off may accumulate in a workplace if unused. 

What Qualifies As A Medical Or Family Reason?

An employee is allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. These reasons can include: 

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee; 
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition; or 
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. 

As such, let’s say that an employee’s elderly parent has been diagnosed with a serious health condition that renders them unable to take care of themselves; in this case, the employee would be allowed to ask their employer for up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical or family leave in order to take care of their loved one. It is important to know that time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave; as such, if the employee is pregnant and had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks as a result of pregnancy complications, it may be counted against their 12 weeks. 

What Happens If An Employer Does Not Follow FMLA?

When an employee seeks to take FMLA, he or she may be conflicted with two questions: (1) What happens if my employer does not follow FMLA? And (2) what happens if my employer mistreats me for taking FMLA? 

Your employer is prohibited from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of FMLA rights, retaliating against you for filing a complaint and cooperating with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), or bringing private action to court. You should contact the WHD immediately if your employer retaliates against you for engaging in any of the legally protected activities. If you have questions, or you think that your rights under the FMLA may have been violated, you can contact the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) at 1-866-487-9243.

EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.

*Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*

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Eric Gros-Dubois

Founding partner Eric Gros-Dubois established EPGD Business Law in 2013. With over a decade of experience expanding the firm and leading it to its current success, Eric now primarily manages the corporate division of EPGD. Given Eric’s educational background, holding both a JD and MBA, combined with his own unique experience of starting a business from scratch and growing it to a multi-million dollar firm, he brings a specialized and invaluable perspective to those seeking legal assistance for themselves and their businesses. Having now instilled his same values in our team of skilled corporate associates, Eric leads a firm that is always ready, willing, and equipped to handle any and every legal matter that a business owner may have.


*The following comments are not intended to be treated as legal advice. The answer to your question is limited to the basic facts presented. Additional details may heavily alter our assessment and change the answer provided. For a more thorough review of your question please contact our office for a consultation.



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