What is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)?
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualifying medical and family reasons. The law is intended to strike a balance between employees work and family life, particularly for supporting families with children and for families dealing with serious illness. An employee who takes a leave under the FMLA is guaranteed a return to their job upon the end of the leave. Certain highly compensated employees may be assigned a different job with a similar level of responsibility and compensation upon return.
Employees are required to meet criteria to qualify for leave under the FMLA. They must have worked for an employer for at least 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within the 12 months prior to the leave.
Qualifying reasons for the leave include caring for a child at birth, adoption or foster care placement, caring for one’s own serious illness, and caring for a seriously ill family member. For seriously ill service members in a family, an eligible employee who is the service member's military caregiver may take up to 26 workweeks of leave.
During the leave period, an employer must continue to provide an employee with the same group health insurance benefits as if they were not on leave, protect their right to return to the same job, and reinstate upon their return to work any benefits they were entitled to before the leave. Employers must also protect employee rights under the FMLA, protect employees from retaliation for exercising their rights, and not interfere or deny those rights. Employers are not required to pay employees during the leave. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from complying with the Act.