Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What Is The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

FMLA stands for the Family and Medical Leave Act; it is a U.S. labor law that regulates time away from the job. The most common use for this leave is sickness in the immediate family. The Family and Leave Act requires that participating employers provide their employees with job protection and unpaid leave for medical and family reasons that meet federal requirements.

History Of FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act was one of the first accomplishments of the Clinton presidency when it was signed into law in January 1993. The signing was not only a historic day, but it was also the end of a long battle fought by women's groups passionate about the issues faced by women and children and how more needed to be done on a larger scale to enable women to work but also be able to care for their sick children when the need arose. Women's Rights group fought hard and diligently to get the Family and Medical Leave Act approved.

FMLA was repeatedly blocked in Congress from 1984 to 1993, and when Congress finally caught the vision and passed the legislation, President George H. W. Bush vetoed the bill in 1991 and in 1992.

FMLA Eligibility

The Family and Medical Leave Act has in its more than twenty-three years of service been used by more than 200 million families, but even with that remarkable record, everyone is not eligible to receive this benefit. The reason for this has little to do with eligibility and more to do with choosing between care and a paycheck. FMLA eligibility is a requirement that must be met by both employer and employee. The FMLA eligibility for employers is relatively simple. Employers in the private sector must employ fifty people or more within a seventy-five-mile radius of the workplace.

An employee seeking to participate in the Family and Medical Leave Act must have been employed with the company he works for a year(12 months). The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours or more during the year prior to the leave application. The Family and Medical Leave Act was created as a means of bridging the gap between work and medical needs in an emergency without sacrificing job security. Many, however, cannot afford to take advantage of it because keeping a job does not replace getting a regular check.

What The Family Medical Leave Act Covers

The Family and Medical Leave Act cover the following medical or family emergencies:

  • Preparing for the birth of a child within one year of birth
  • Birth and care of a newborn
  • Placement with the employees of a child from adoption or foster care and care for the newly placed child within one year of placement
  • Caring for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his/her job.
  • Transition an employee or spouse called to active military duty
  • Qualifying exigency due to the employee's spouse, child, or parent being a covered military member on active duty

These situations and circumstances help an employee meet FMLA eligibility requirements. Appropriate certification from a medical doctor may be required when applying for he leave.

FMLA Paid Leave

FMLA, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, is unpaid job protected leave. Its purpose is to protect the benefits and the job of an employee who because of unmitigated circumstances needs time off. Therefore, FMLA paid leave is a misnomer; FMLA paid leave is essentially a myth. The focus of the act is job security. So while there is no FMLA paid leave, employers can offer their employees with options that will allow them to receive some monetary compensation while not working. The most popular ways are using accrued paid leaves, vacation days, or personal sick days.