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FMLA: An Overview

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has been the law of the land for nearly three decades, with only minor revisions between its passage in 1993 and today. Yet the provisions of the FMLA are not universally understood by employers or employees. Here’s a brief overview of which employers must comply, which employees qualify for benefits, and what those benefits include.


In the private sector, employers fall under the purview of the FMLA if they employ 50 or more people for 20 or more work weeks of a given calendar year. Those weeks do not need to be consecutive. The employee count includes part-time, seasonal and temporary employees as well as full-time staff.

Outside of the private sector, all public agencies including those at both the state and federal levels must comply, as well as local educational agencies.


The FMLA applies to employees who work for a covered employer and:

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Have at least 1,250 hours of service for that employer in the 12 months prior to the leave
  • Work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius

There are special, somewhat different rules for airline flight crew members.

Leave Entitlement

Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period for any of these reasons:

  • The birth of a child or the placement of a child with the employee for foster care or adoption
  • To care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious health issue
  • For a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to work
  • For certain conditions surrounding active duty military service involving a family member

Additionally, covered employers must grant eligible employees up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with serious injury or illness, if that person is the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin.

Note that in all cases employers must return the employee taking FMLA leave to the same or an equivalent position as when they left, and must maintain the employee’s health benefits during leave.

Questions about FMLA or other benefits issues? Contact Consolidated Insurance.

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