Family and Medical Leave Act
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.,
covers employers of 50 or more employees. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they
have worked for at least 12 months, and for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.
Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for:
the birth and care of a newborn child of the employee;
the placement of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
the care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a “serious health condition”;
medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a “serious health condition”; or
due to a “qualifying exigency” related to a family member’s deployment in the Armed Services.
In addition, an employee can take up to 26 weeks in a single 12-month period to care for a
family member who has a serious illness or injury received in the line of duty in the Armed
Services. FMLA leave can be taken all at once or on a reduced or intermittent basis. The
employer must keep health benefits in place while the employee is on FMLA leave.
Ordinarily, the employee is entitled to be returned to her same or an equivalent position at the
end of the leave.
Although FMLA rules are complicated and beyond the scope of this Guide, there are
some significant traps that employers should understand. In particular, employers should be
aware that an employee need not make a specific request for “FMLA” leave to be entitled to
it. The employee need only give the employer enough information to inform the employer
that the employee may be entitled to such leave. In some circumstances FMLA leave may
run concurrently with leave an employee takes under other statutes or policies such as
workers’ compensation leave, or disability leave under a Short Term Disability policy, or
maternity leave under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act. The Department of Labor