Who is eligible to take FMLA leave?

If you had a serious injury or illness, you likely wouldn’t be able to work. Similarly, the birth of a child or a family member’s health may require you to be absent from work for long periods of time. Sometimes, we can’t work for reasons beyond our control, which is why employees are allowed to take time off of work when needed. When these situations arise, employees can take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).


Under the FMLA, certain employees are allowed to take unpaid time off of work for specific family and medical reasons. This leave can last up to 12 work weeks a year and protects the employee’s position until they can return to work. The following institutions and employers are required to grant leave to their employees:

  • Public agencies, including local, state and federal
  • Local education agencies (schools)
  • Private-sector employers who employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 work weeks

Any employee who works for a covered employer has the right to take FMLA leave if they worked for them for at least 1,250 hours before the start of the leave. Employees must also have worked for the employer for 12 months to be eligible.

Reasons for leave

An employee cannot take leave for a minor injury or sickness. Their health condition must be severe to be able to take FMLA leave. A qualified employee can take leave when:

  • Their child is born
  • They adopt a child
  • They need to take care of a spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition
  • They have a serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job
  • Their spouse, child or parent is on military duty and needs them
  • They need to take care of a service member with a serious health condition if the service member is their spouse, child, parent or someone next of kin

Employees who welcome a new child can take the leave within one year of birth or placement. Those who need to take care of a covered servicemember can take leave for up to 26 weeks.

Employee protection

When an employee returns from their leave, their employer must give them the same or an equivalent job to the one they had before. An equivalent job means that the new job must have the same pay, terms, and conditions as the former. An employer would be violating the law if they deny the employee’s right to take leave. It is also unlawful for an employer to retaliate against their employees for this. If this happened to you, you may benefit from speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. Alan C. Olson & Associates can help employees fight for their rights in the workplace.


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