Family and Medical Leave Act Law and Legal Definition

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires covered employers to grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

An employer covered by FMLA is any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employers covered by FMLA also include any person acting, directly or indirectly, in the interest of a covered employer to any of the employees of the employer, any successor in interest of a covered employer, and any public agency. Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. Public as well as private elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers.

Generally, an employee’s spouse, children (son or daughter), and parents are immediate family members for purposes of the FMLA. In-laws are not included as parents. And sons and daughters do not include individuals 18 or over unless they are "incapable of self-care" because of a mental or physical disability that limits one or more of the "major life activities" as those terms are defined in ADA-related regulations.

Some of the employee's duties under the FMLA include:

  • The employee must make a request for excused time (paid or unpaid). It may be a verbal request or a request from a representative of the employee (spouse, family member, or other responsible party).
  • The employee must provide a reason for the request so that the employer can determine if it falls under the provisions of the FMLA.
  • The employee must comply with any provisions of an employer's disability plan or leave policy under which the employee is receiving benefits.
  • If reasonably able to, the employee must give at least 30 days notice of need for excused time.
  • The employee must make a reasonable effort not to disrupt the company's operations.

The employee must provide:

  • medical certification within 15 days of the request.
  • periodic notice of intent to return to work.
  • a certification from Employee's Health Care Provider that you are able to return to work.
  • The employee must notify the employer if the spouse is also an employee of the same Company and if they are taking FMLA leave for absence for Child Care following the birth or placement for adoption or foster care or to care for a seriously ill parent during the current 12 month period.
  • Submit to a 2nd medical exam from a health care provider selected by the company, when required.
  • Cooperate in selecting a health care provider for a 3rd medical exam, when required.

FMLA may be applied retroactively if the employee provides the reason for the absence within two business days of returning to work.