The FMLA is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. It is the main federal law that employees in the United States rely on when they need an extended period of time off from their jobs for maternity leave, or extended sick leave, or in order to care for an ill family member. Even though most workers will either need this sort of leave at some point during their careers or will know someone who does, there are some things that most people just don’t know about this law. Here are just a few facts that you may not have known:
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1. The FMLA does not cover all employers.
Work for a small business? Then you may not be eligible for leave under the FMLA. The FMLA only applies to what are called “covered employers.” Generally, two types of employers are covered: (1) government agencies, elementary schools, and secondary schools of any size, and (2) private employers with more than 50 employees. So if you work in the private sector, and your company has fewer than 50 employees, the FMLA probably does not protect you or give you any rights. All may not be lost, because some states have laws like the FMLA that do not have this requirement, but the FMLA itself will likely not apply to you.
2. The FMLA does not cover all employees.
Even if your employer is a “covered employer,” you yourself still may not qualify for leave under the law. First, in order to qualify you have to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. In the case of seasonal work, the months do not have to be consecutive, but you still need that total of 12 months of work. Also, you have to have worked for the employer for 1250 hours in the last 12 months, or roughly 24 hours per week. So, some part-time workers may be out of luck. Then, you also have to work in a location where your employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work site. So it does not matter if your employer has 1,000,000 employees; if enough of those employees do not work close enough to you, then you will not be covered by the FMLA.
3. If you take time off before your child’s birth due to pregnancy complications, that may decrease the amount of time you can take off under the FMLA as maternity or paternity leave.
That’s right. Unlike many western European countries that give new parents a set amount of time off work to care for a new child, in the United States all of the leave in any way related to the child’s birth is lumped together. So, according to the United States Department of Labor, “Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the twelve weeks of family and medical leave.” This horrible part of the policy means that the parents who may have the most need to stay with their new child after its birth due to pregnancy complications and possible premature birth are the most limited in the amount of time they can stay with their child.
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