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Medical Leave (FMLA Leave)

Under the Family & Medical Leave Act (commonly referred to as "FMLA"), employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks off work for a serious health condition. Often times, employers do not want to honor this requirement and instead opt to terminate employees or pressure them into not exercising their legal right to medical leave.

If certain conditions are met, an employee is entitled to the following periods of leave:
  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
To be covered by FMLA, the employer must have 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or proceeding calendar year.

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must:
  • work for a covered employer;
  • have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave;
  • work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles; and
  • have worked for the employer for 12 months.
A "serious health condition" under the FMLA can be a variety of health issues. In general, the following would be considered a serious health condition:
  • conditions requiring an overnight stay in a hospital or other medical care facility;
  • conditions that incapacitate you or your family member (for example, unable to work or attend school) for more than three consecutive days and have ongoing medical treatment (either multiple appointments with a health care provider, or a single appointment and follow-up care such as prescription medication);
  • chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when you or your family member are incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year; and
  • pregnancy (including prenatal medical appointments, incapacity due to morning sickness, and medically required bed rest).
When an employee brings a lawsuit based on the Family & Medical Leave Act and wins, he or she is entitled to an award of damages which may include:
  • back pay (or what you would have earned but for the employer's wrongful conduct between the time of the wrongful act (such as wrongful discharge) and the time of trial);
  • out-of-pocket losses such as what you spent to care for a loved one for whom you should have been given leave (e.g., the cost to hire a nurse to provide care to your spouse);
  • Attorneys' fees and costs; and
  • liquidated damages, which is the doubling of actual damages.