FMLA Rules: What Employees Should Know

By Neetal Parekh on September 09, 2009 | Last updated on October 28, 2019

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the jobs of certain employees who take time off for medical reasons, birth, adoption, or caring for a family member who has a serious health condition. If you are an employee, don't wait until you need to use FMLA to find out what it's all about, here are the basic FMLA rules.

  • FMLA covers certain employers. Employer must have 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year to be bound by the law. Public agencies, public and private elementary schools are also covered by FMLA.
  • FMLA covers certain employees.  Full and part-time employees, temporary workers, and employees whose work sites are located within 75 miles of the employer are covered. Employees must also have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours to be eligible for the protection.
  • FMLA guarantees job-protected, unpaid time off. Under the FMLA rules, eligible employees get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period.
  • FMLA is a federal law, but may have state equivalents. Though FMLA is federally mandated, a dozen or so states have state counterparts to the law. For example, many of the state laws also provide unpaid leave to care for a same-sex partner or otherwise expand the rules or coverage. A state equivalent may enable the employee to exhaust both the state and federal sets of unpaid leave without fear of losing their job.

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[This post has been updated to clarify which types of employers FMLA applies to.]

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