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When does an employer need to let a worker take FMLA leave?

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | Employment Discrimination

Some employers offer very valuable benefits to their workers. For example, they might provide paid time off, a benefit that allows someone to maintain a predictable level of income even if they suddenly fall sick or want to take a vacation.

However, not all employers offer paid leave, and even those that do tend to limit how much leave a worker can utilize each year. Yet, there are numerous scenarios in which someone might want to keep their job but will be unable to perform it for quite some time due to factors outside of their control. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can help protect someone’s employment if they require leave and their circumstances qualify under the law.

When does the FMLA protect workers?

When their employer is large enough

The most basic requirement for FMLA leave is that the employer must be large enough to absorb someone’s unpaid absence without undue hardship. Typically, that means a company will need to have at least 50 workers within 75 miles of the location where the employee seeking leave currently works.

When they have a lengthy work history

Someone will generally need to have worked with the company for at least a year in order to qualify for FMLA leave. In fact, they need to have performed at least 1,250 billable hours of work within the last 12 months for the FMLA to apply. Those who have just switched jobs or who work in a limited, part-time capacity may not meet the necessary standards for unpaid leave under the FMLA.

When they have a qualifying life experience

The FMLA largely serves to protect people from unfortunate situations that they cannot control, including personal medical emergencies and challenging family circumstances. Someone who has a serious illness or injury can qualify for leave either for treatment or simply for rest.

People can also qualify for leave based on the medical experiences of their immediate family members. A spouse, parent or child experiencing a medical emergency will generally make a qualifying employee eligible to request FMLA leave. Those who have a child can qualify for FMLA leave. Mothers who have just had a baby and families that have adopted or secured foster placement of a child in the household can qualify for FMLA leave both for physical recovery and to allow the family time to bond.

Workers who understand the unique rules that apply to FMLA leave requests will be in a better position to make use of this important federal protection. Recognizing when FMLA leave is an option can help workers protect their careers while also meeting their own qualifying needs and/or the qualifying needs of their loved ones.