The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), established in 1993, protects individuals who need time off from their jobs for their own medical issues or close family members’. The act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for personal or family reasons that must meet qualifying criteria.
Job protection. Any employee who takes time off afforded to them by FMLA must have his or her job protected during the absence. They cannot be terminated while on leave and must return to the same positions they were in before they left. If those jobs are not available, they must be placed in comparable positions with the same salary, benefits and seniority.
Provisions for eligible workers. Employees are also eligible for additional provisions from their employers including continued group benefits with the same contributions from the company. Employees must not be denied FMLA or fear retaliation from their employers if they elect to take this time off.
Non-qualifying employees. Not everyone is eligible for FMLA. Companies with fewer than 50 employees do not meet the requirements for offering leave. Part-time workers who haven't worked enough hours within a consecutive 12-week time frame prior to leaving also do not qualify. Regarding elder care, it is only available for parents. And caring for pets is not considered an FMLA-protected event.
State-by-state qualifications. Some states have dropped the employee threshold for FMLA. For example, Oregon uses 25 employees as its cutoff for organizations that do not have to provide leave protection. Other states have expanded the definition of family to include such categories as domestic partners, such as in Maine and California. Some states, like Connecticut, offer FMLA for individuals donating bone marrow or an organ.