What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

The Family Medical Leave Act or the FMLA is a federal law that was passed in 1993. This law allows an unpaid and job-protected leave in case the employee or his/her child or spouse needs medical care. All public and private agencies, companies, schools and universities that have got 50 and more employees are obligated to follow this law.

In order for an employee to get FMLA benefits he/she must:

  • Have worked in the agency or school (university) for at least 1,250 hours for the last 12 months.
  • Have worked for at least 12 months in the company, agency school or university.

Under the law, employees are granted 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Following are the main cases when an employee may ask for a medical leave:

  • Serious health condition with an immediate family member (child, spouse, parent)
  • Own need for immediate medical care
  • Childbirth (birth and care of the worker’s child)
  • Adoption (care of newly adopted child)

According to the Family Medical Leave Act, under “serious health condition” it must be understood:

  • Inpatient care in a hospital or any other medical care facility
  • Continuing treatment by a hospital or a health care provider

There may be different situations in life when a person may need continuing treatment or immediate medical care. For example, there may be some period of incapacity after childbirth, or there may be a serious health condition when the individual needs at least 3 consecutive calendar days of medical care either in a hospital or other medical care facility, or there may be a condition when the individual needs immediate surgical interference due to an injury, car crash or any other accident.

The employee is required to provide a notice about his/her medical care leave at least 30 days in advance. However, there are cases, when the individual is not able to foresee injuries or need for medical care. In such cases the worker is required to provide the notice as soon as possible.

An employee who has used the benefits provided by the Family Medical Leave Act should receive the same or equivalent position after he/she has returned from the leave. The employer should not discriminate against the employee because of his/her absence. The salary and other benefits of the worker must remain the same as before the leave. If the employer violates these rules, the employee may seek legal help by contacting an employment attorney.

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