Just as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was the signature health care achievement of President Barack Obama’s first term, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was an early health-related priority for President Bill Clinton. Its acronym is now firmly in the lexicon of lawyers, politicians, and the public. But despite being the law of the land for more than two decades, the FMLA remains a source of trepidation and confusion for attorneys, judges, and clients. No article could attempt to solve all the mysteries associated with the law, but we’ll try to resolve at least a few.
Although this article will focus exclusively on the federal FMLA, it’s worth noting that several states have enacted laws guaranteeing somewhat greater family and medical leave benefits than the FMLA; Connecticut has gone even further by offering paid sick leave for some workers. This article will not tackle such state-by-state provisions, but there are ample online resources for lawyers and employers to do so.
Simply stated, the FMLA provides eligible employees with unpaid leaves of absence for certain family and medical reasons. From this general proposition we can pull three key questions. First, what sort of leave does the FMLA provide? Second, for which medical or family reasons may someone take leave? Third, what is an eligible employee? We will tackle the first two questions together before moving on to the third.
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