Family and Medical Leave
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), enacted in 1993, entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family or medical leave in any 12 month period. Family leave may be taken for the birth and care of a newborn child; for the adoption or foster care placement of a child; or to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition. Medical leave may be taken when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. Employers are required to continue providing health insurance for employees who received it prior to the leave, and employees are entitled to keep other benefits accrued prior to the leave.
The law applies to private sector employers and public agencies, including state, local, and federal employers, who employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must (1) work for a covered employer, (2) have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months; and (4) work within 75 miles of an area where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer.
Some states have chosen to extend the federal FMLA protections for working families by extending eligibility to additional workers and/or by extending the length of allowed leave. In addition, while the federal law guarantees only unpaid leave, six states now offer partial wage replacement for medical or family leave, and more than half the states have passed laws allowing employees to use their sick leave to care for sick family members, though in most cases these laws apply only to public sector employers