The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers that are subject to that statute to provide up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave to employees who are covered by that statute. The key qualification requirements are:
- The employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the plaintiff;
- The employee must have worked for that employer for at least one year; and
- The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours (roughly equal to three 8-hour days per week for 52 weeks) for that employer during the previous year.
An employee who qualifies for FMLA coverage can take that leave if needed because of pregnancy or childbirth, to care for certain family members (spouse, children and parents, among others), or to care for himself/herself. In addition, some employees may be entitled to intermittent leave, such as when his/her medical condition requires doctor’s visits.
The employer can ask the employee to provide medical certification for the employee’s own or a close relative’s health condition. The employer can request a second medical opinion and, if that opinion differs from that of the employee’s own health-care provider, the employer and employee can agree on a third physician to break the tie.
The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s FMLA rights or from retaliating against an employee for exercising those rights. In addition, with the exception of “key employees,” an employer is required to reinstate an employee who has used FMLA leave either to that employee’s former position or to a substantially equivalent position.