The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) protects employees against possible disruption in their employment caused by leave from work needed to care for a newborn or a sick family member. The FMLA applies to all public federal, state, and local municipal employers. The FMLA also applies to private employers who employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or proceeding year. Private employers must also be engaged in commerce or any industry affecting commerce.
The employee is entitled to specific benefits if employed by a public or private employer covered by the FMLA. The employee is entitled to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during a 12month period for: the birth and care of a newborn child of the employee, for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care, for care of an immediate family member (defined by the FMLA as a spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition (defined by the FMLA as “any period of incapacity or treatment connected with inpatient care in a hospital or hospice or residential medical-care facility or continuing treatment by a health care provider which includes any period in which the employee is unable to work, attend school, or perform regular activities due to a health condition, a pregnancy-related absence, a chronic serious health condition or a permanent long-term condition.”) The employee may take leave intermittently, meaning that the 12 week block does not have to be taken consecutively. However, intermittent leave, when used for birth and care for adoption or foster care must be approved by the employer. When the leave is used to care for a seriously ill family member, the intermittent leave may be taken only when medically necessary.
When the employee returns from FMLA leave, the employer must restore the employee to the original job or equivalent job with equivalent pay. The employer must also maintain health benefits while the employee is on FMLA leave.
Employees must meet certain requirements before they are eligible for benefits afforded by the FMLA. Employees must work for a covered employer for a total of 12 months and have worked for at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period. The employee must provide 30-days advanced notice for the need to take FMLA leave. Employers may also require employees to provide medical documentation to validate the medical condition claimed. Employers (at their expense) may require employees to seek a second or third opinion. Employees also must furnish their employers with status reports and intent to return to work.
The provisions of the FMLA are enforced by the United States Secretary of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Thus far, there have not been any challenges to the provisions of the FMLA heard before the United States Supreme Court.
Although employees of state and local employers cannot sue their employers for discriminatory practices involving provisions of some Federal laws (most notably the ADEA and ADA), below is a list of the applicable state laws prohibiting employment discrimination.