Understanding qualifications for FMLA job protection

The Family Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993 as a way to "balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families." For employees, this means job protection and safeguards against workplace discrimination.

FMLA basics

The FMLA, as it's known, essentially allows workers to take time off of work in the event that they need to care for themselves or a sick loved one. The Act protects workers and prohibits employers from firing, discriminating or taking retaliatory efforts against employees who take FLMA leave.

Specifically, the law authorizes employees to take up to 12 weeks of protected leave. The leave is generally unpaid. It is also above and beyond any benefit time like sick days or time of already provided by employers.

However, certain requirements must be met in order for employees to take leave under the FMLA.

Employee qualifications

To invoke FMLA entitlement, an employee seeking leave:

  • Must be employed with an employer who has at least 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius
  • Must have been employed at the same employment for at least 12 months prior to requesting the time off
  • Must have worked at least 1200 hours during the previous 12 months

Both public and private employers are entitled to take FMLA leave. However, FMLA does not apply to elected officials.

Qualified FMLA reasons

Additionally, FMLA can only be taken if certain qualified instances are present. Employees can only take leave for a:

  • Personal illness
  • Family illness (including parent, spouse, legal or biological child)
  • Family military leave
  • Pregnancy
  • Adoption or foster care placement of a child

Unfortunately, FMLA leave cannot be used to care for a member of an extended family or recover from a minor injury or illness.

Additional qualifications under state law

In additional to protections under the FMLA, some states have passed their own family medical leave statutes and expanded eligibility requirements.

California, Connecticut and Hawaii, for instance, allow employees to take protected leave to care for a domestic or civil union partner.

Other states authorize employees to take protected time off in the event of the death of an extended family member killed while on active duty.

Seeking answers

Like all areas of law, FMLA qualifications and protections are complex. Speaking with a human resources representative or an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you of your specific rights as they pertain to your situation is advised.