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FMLA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job‐protected leave to “eligible” employees for certain family and medical reasons.  Employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months, and if there are at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Reasons for Taking Leave

Unpaid leave must be granted for any of the following reasons:

  • to care for the employee’s child after birth, or placement for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, son or daughter, or parent, who has a serious health condition; or
  • for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the employee’s job.

At the employee’s or employer’s option, certain kinds of paid leave may be substituted for unpaid leave

Advance Notice and Medical Certification

The employee may be required to provide advance leave notice and medical certification.   Taking of leave may be denied if requirements are not met.

  • The employee ordinarily must provide 30 days advance notice when the leave is “foreseeable.”
  • An employer may require medical certification to support a request for leave because of a serious health condition, and may require second or third opinions (at the employer’s expense) and fitness for duty report to return to work.

Job Benefits and Protection

  • For the duration of FMLA leave, the employer must maintain the employee’s health coverage under any “group health plan.”
  • Upon return from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to their original or equivalent positions with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms.
  • The use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that accrued prior to the start of an employee’s leave.

Unlawful Acts by Employers

FMLA makes it unlawful for any employer to:

  • interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under FMLA:
  • discharge or discriminate against any person for opposing any practice made unlawful by FMLA or for involvement in any proceeding under or relating to FMLA.


  • The U.S. Department of Labor is authorized to investigate and resolve complaints of violation.
  • An eligible employee may bring a civil action against an employer for violations.

FMLA does not affect any Federal or State law prohibiting discrimination, or supersede any State or local law collective bargaining agreement which provides greater family or medical leave rights.

For Additional Information

Contact the nearest office of Wage and Hour Division, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor.