Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition

What employers are covered by the Act?

  • An employer covered by FMLA is any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employers covered by FMLA also include any person acting, directly or indirectly, in the interest of a covered employer to any of the employees of the employer, any successor in interest of a covered employer, and any public agency. Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. Public as well as private elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. (See Sec. 825.600.)
  • The terms "commerce" and "industry affecting commerce" are defined in accordance with section 501(1) and (3) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (LMRA) (29 U.S.C. 142 (1) and (3)), as set forth in the definitions at section 825.800 of this part. For purposes of the FMLA, employers who meet the 50-employee coverage test are deemed to be engaged in commerce or in an industry or activity affecting commerce.
  • Normally the legal entity which employs the employee is the employer under FMLA. Applying this principle, a corporation is a single employer rather than its separate establishments or divisions.
  • Where one corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, it is a separate employer unless it meets the "joint employment" test discussed in Sec. 825.106, or the "integrated employer" test contained in paragraph (c)(2) of this section.
  • Separate entities will be deemed to be parts of a single employer for purposes of FMLA if they meet the "integrated employer" test. Where this test is met, the employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage and employee eligibility. A determination of whether or not separate entities are an integrated employer is not determined by the application of any single criterion, but rather the entire relationship is to be reviewed in its totality. Factors considered in determining whether two or more entities are an integrated employer include:
    • Common management;
    • Interrelation between operations;
    • Centralized control of labor relations; and
    • Degree of common ownership/financial control.
  • An "employer" includes any person who acts directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer to any of the employer's employees. The definition of "employer" in section 3(d) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 203(d), similarly includes any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee. As under the FLSA, individuals such as corporate officers "acting in the interest of an employer" are individually liable for any violations of the requirements of FMLA.

Which employees are "eligible" to take leave under FMLA?

  • An "eligible employee" is an employee of a covered employer who:
    • Has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months, and
    • Has been employed for at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave, and
    • Is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of that worksite. (See Sec. 825.105(a) regarding employees who work outside the U.S.)
  • The 12 months an employee must have been employed by the employer need not be consecutive months. If an employee is maintained on the payroll for any part of a week, including any periods of paid or unpaid leave (sick, vacation) during which other benefits or compensation are provided by the employer (e.g., workers' compensation, group health plan benefits, etc.), the week counts as a week of employment. For purposes of determining whether intermittent/occasional/ casual employment qualifies as "at least 12 months," 52 weeks is deemed to be equal to 12 months.

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  • Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to the principles established under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for determining compensable hours of work (see 29 CFR Part 785). The determining factor is the number of hours an employee has worked for the employer within the meaning of the FLSA. The determination is not limited by methods of recordkeeping, or by compensation agreements that do not accurately reflect all of the hours an employee has worked for or been in service to the employer. Any accurate accounting of actual hours worked under FLSA's principles may be used. In the event an employer does not maintain an accurate record of hours worked by an employee, including for employees who are exempt from FLSA's requirement that a record be kept of their hours worked (e.g., bona fide executive, administrative, and professional employees as defined in FLSA Regulations, 29 CFR Part 541), the employer has the burden of showing that the employee has not worked the requisite hours. In the event the employer is unable to meet this burden the employee is deemed to have met this test. See also Sec. 825.500(f). For this purpose, full-time teachers (see Sec. 825.800 for definition) of an elementary or secondary school system, or institution of higher education, or other educational establishment or institution are deemed to meet the 1,250 hour test. An employer must be able to clearly demonstrate that such an employee did not work 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months in order to claim that the employee is not "eligible" for FMLA leave.
  • The determinations of whether an employee has worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months and has been employed by the employer for a total of at least 12 months must be made as of the date leave commences. If an employee notifies the employer of need for FMLA leave before the employee meets these eligibility criteria, the employer must either confirm the employee's eligibility based upon a projection that the employee will be eligible on the date leave would commence or must advise the employee when the eligibility requirement is met. If the employer confirms eligibility at the time the notice for leave is received, the employer may not subsequently challenge the employee's eligibility. In the latter case, if the employer does not advise the employee whether the employee is eligible as soon as practicable (i.e., two business days absent extenuating circumstances) after the date employee eligibility is determined, the employee will have satisfied the notice requirements and the notice of leave is considered current and outstanding until the employer does advise. If the employer fails to advise the employee whether the employee is eligible prior to the date the requested leave is to commence, the employee will be deemed eligible. The employer may not, then, deny the leave. Where the employee does not give notice of the need for leave more than two business days prior to commencing leave, the employee will be deemed to be eligible if the employer fails to advise the employee that the employee is not eligible within two business days of receiving the employee's notice.
  • The period prior to the FMLA's effective date must be considered in determining employee's eligibility.
  • Whether 50 employees are employed within 75 miles to ascertain an employee's eligibility for FMLA benefits is determined when the employee gives notice of the need for leave. Whether the leave is to be taken at one time or on an intermittent or reduced leave schedule basis, once an employee is determined eligible in response to that notice of the need for leave, the employee's eligibility is not affected by any subsequent change in the number of employees employed at or within 75 miles of the employee's worksite, for that specific notice of the need for leave. Similarly, an employer may not terminate employee leave that has already started if the employee-count drops below 50. For example, if an employer employs 60 employees in August, but expects that the number of employees will drop to 40 in December, the employer must grant FMLA benefits to an otherwise eligible employee who gives notice of the need for leave in August for a period of leave to begin in December. [60 FR 2237, Jan. 6, 1995; 60 FR 16383, Mar. 30, 1995]
Source: US Department of Labor
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