The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks per year off work because either they or a family member has a serious health condition, or because they become a parent. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) probably applies to you if you have held your job for at least one year and you work for the government or an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of your workplace.
You don’t even need to mention the FMLA in order to be entitled to the time off. You do have to give your employer enough information so they know there might be a serious health condition involved. Your employer can require you to fill out paperwork and have your doctor certify that you need the leave.
According to the FMLA, a “serious health condition” doesn’t have to be all that serious. A health condition qualifies if any of the following are true:
- The condition makes the patient unable to work or perform regular daily activities for more than three consecutive days, and it involves either two doctor’s visits, or one doctor’s visit and a prescription (examples may include strep throat, ear infection, or pink eye)
- The condition is chronic and requires continuing treatment (examples may include asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy)
- The condition has resulted in an overnight hospital stay
You can take leave in increments as short as one hour or less. For instance, the health condition might require periodic doctor appointments or might limit your work to reduced hours for a period of time.
It is against the law for your employer to take your job away from you during your leave or upon your return, unless you are given an almost identical job with the same pay, status, and work schedule.
It’s also against the law for your employer to retaliate against you because you have taken FMLA leave or tried to do so. One common violation employers commit is to count the leave against you under a so-called “no fault” attendance policy.