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Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
- Family and Medical Leave Act Advisor

Glossary of Terms Used in the FMLA


Act or FMLA means the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, Public Law 103 3 (February 5, 1993), 107 Stat. 6 (29 U.S.C. 2601 et seq., as amended).



ADA means the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., as amended).



Administrator means the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, and includes any official of the Wage and Hour Division authorized to perform any of the functions of the Administrator under this part.



Airline flight crew employee means an airline flight crewmember or flight attendant as those terms are defined in regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration. See also § 825.800(a).



Applicable monthly guarantee means:

  1. For an airline flight crew employee who is not on reserve status (line holder), the minimum number of hours for which an employer has agreed to schedule such employee for any given month; and
  2. For an airline flight crew employee who is on reserve status, the number of hours for which an employer has agreed to pay the employee for any given month. See also § 825.801(b)(1).


COBRA means the continuation coverage requirements of Title X of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, as amended (Public Law 99 272, title X, section 10002; 100 Stat 227; 29 U.S.C. 1161 1168).



Commerce and industry or activity affecting commerce mean any activity, business, or industry in commerce or in which a labor dispute would hinder or obstruct commerce or the free flow of commerce, and include “commerce” and any “industry affecting commerce” as defined in sections 501(1) and 501(3) of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. 142(1) and (3).



Contingency operation means a military operation that:

  1. is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the Armed Forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force; or
  2. results in the call or order to, or retention on, active duty of members of the uniformed services under section 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12305, or 12406 of Title 10 of the United States Code, chapter 15 of Title 10 of the United States Code, or any other provision of law during a war or during a national emergency declared by the President or Congress. See also § 825.126(a)(2).


Continuing treatment by a health care provider means any one of the following:

  1. Incapacity and treatment. A period of incapacity of more than three consecutive, full calendar days, and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition, that also involves:
    1. Treatment two or more times, within 30 days of the first day of incapacity, unless extenuating circumstances exist, by a health care provider, by a nurse under direct supervision of a health care provider, or by a provider of health care services (e.g., physical therapist) under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider; or
    2. Treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion, which results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider.
    3. The requirement in paragraphs (i) and (ii) for treatment by a health care provider means an in-person visit to a health care provider. The first in-person treatment visit must take place within seven days of the first day of incapacity.
    4. Whether additional treatment visits or a regimen of continuing treatment is necessary within the 30-day period shall be determined by the health care provider.
    5. The term “extenuating circumstances” in paragraph (i) means circumstances beyond the employee’s control that prevent the follow-up visit from occurring as planned by the health care provider. Whether a given set of circumstances are extenuating depends on the facts. See also § 825.115(a)(5).
  2. Pregnancy or prenatal care. Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy, or for prenatal care. See also § 825.120.
  3. Chronic conditions. Any period of incapacity or treatment for such incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition. A chronic serious health condition is one which:
    1. Requires periodic visits (defined as at least twice a year) for treatment by a health care provider, or by a nurse under direct supervision of a health care provider;
    2. Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and
    3. May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.).
  4. Permanent or long-term conditions. A period of incapacity which is permanent or long term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective. The employee or family member must be under the continuing supervision of, but need not be receiving active treatment by, a health care provider. Examples include Alzheimer’s, a severe stroke, or the terminal stages of a disease.
  5. Conditions requiring multiple treatments. Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery therefrom) by a health care provider or by a provider of health care services under orders of, or on referral by, a health care provider, for:
    1. Restorative surgery after an accident or other injury; or
    2. A condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive full calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment, such as cancer (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), severe arthritis (physical therapy), kidney disease (dialysis).
  6. Absences attributable to incapacity under paragraphs (2) or (3) of this definition qualify for FMLA leave even though the employee or the covered family member does not receive treatment from a health care provider during the absence, and even if the absence does not last more than three consecutive full calendar days. For example, an employee with asthma may be unable to report for work due to the onset of an asthma attack or because the employee’s health care provider has advised the employee to stay home when the pollen count exceeds a certain level. An employee who is pregnant may be unable to report to work because of severe morning sickness.



Covered active duty or call to covered active duty status means:

  1. in the case of a member of the Regular Armed Forces, duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country; and,
  2. in the case of a member of the Reserve components of the Armed Forces, duty during the deployment of the member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a Federal call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation under a provision of law referred to in section 101(a)(13)(B) of Title 10, United States Code. See also § 825.126(a).



Covered servicemember means:

  1. a current member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness, or
  2. a covered veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness.



Covered veteran means an individual who was a member of the Armed Forces (including a member of the National Guard or Reserves), and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable at any time during the five-year period prior to the first date the eligible employee takes FMLA leave to care for the covered veteran. See § 825.127(b)(2).



Eligible employee means:

  1. An employee who has been employed for a total of at least 12 months by the employer on the date on which any FMLA leave is to commence, except that an employer need not consider any period of previous employment that occurred more than seven years before the date of the most recent hiring of the employee, unless:
    1. The break in service is occasioned by the fulfillment of the employee’s Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301, et seq., covered service obligation (the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service must be also counted in determining whether the employee has been employed for at least 12 months by the employer, but this section does not provide any greater entitlement to the employee than would be available under the USERRA); or
    2. A written agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement, exists concerning the employer’s intention to rehire the employee after the break in service (e.g., for purposes of the employee furthering his or her education or for childrearing purposes); and
  2. Who, on the date on which any FMLA leave is to commence, has met the hours of service requirement by having been employed for at least 1,250 hours of service with such employer during the previous 12-month period, or for an airline flight crew employee, in the previous 12 months, having worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable total monthly guarantee and having worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours, not counting personal commute time, or vacation, medical or sick leave (see § 825.801(b)), except that:
    1. An employee returning from fulfilling his or her USERRA-covered obligation shall be credited with the hours of service that would have been performed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining whether the employee met the hours of service requirement (accordingly, a person reemployed following absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service has the hours that would have been worked for the employer (or, for an airline flight crew employee, would have been worked or paid by the employer) added to any hours actually worked (or, for an airline flight crew employee, actually worked or paid) during the previous 12-month period to meet the hours of service requirement); and
    2. To determine the hours that would have been worked (or, for an airline flight crew employee, would have been worked or paid) during the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service, the employee’s pre-service work schedule can generally be used for calculations.
  3. Who is employed in any State of the United States, the District of Columbia or any Territories or possession of the United States.
  4. Excludes any Federal officer or employee covered under subchapter V of chapter 63 of title 5, United States Code.
  5. Excludes any employee of the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate covered by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 1301.
  6. Excludes any employee who is employed at a worksite at which the employer employs fewer than 50 employees if the total number of employees employed by that employer within 75 miles of that worksite is also fewer than 50.
  7. Excludes any employee employed in any country other than the United States or any Territory or possession of the United States.


Employ means to suffer or permit to work.



Employee has the meaning given the same term as defined in section 3(e) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 203(e), as follows:

  1. The term “employee” means any individual employed by an employer;
  2. In the case of an individual employed by a public agency, “employee” means
    1. Any individual employed by the Government of the United States
      1. As a civilian in the military departments (as defined in section 102 of Title 5, United States Code),
      2. In any executive agency (as defined in section 105 of Title 5, United States Code), excluding any Federal officer or employee covered under subchapter V of chapter 63 of Title 5, United States Code,
      3. In any unit of the legislative or judicial branch of the Government which has positions in the competitive service, excluding any employee of the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate who is covered by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995,
      4. In a nonappropriated fund instrumentality under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces, or
    2. Any individual employed by the United States Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission; and
    3. Any individual employed by a State, political subdivision of a State, or an interstate governmental agency, other than such an individual
      1. Who is not subject to the civil service laws of the State, political subdivision, or agency which employs the employee; and
      2. Who -
        1. Holds a public elective office of that State, political subdivision, or agency,
        2. Is selected by the holder of such an office to be a member of his personal staff,
        3. Is appointed by such an officeholder to serve on a policymaking level,
        4. Is an immediate adviser to such an officeholder with respect to the constitutional or legal powers of the office of such officeholder, or
        5. Is an employee in the legislative branch or legislative body of that State, political subdivision, or agency and is not employed by the legislative library of such State, political subdivision, or agency.


Employee employed in an instructional capacity. See the definition of Teacher in this section.



Employer means any person engaged in commerce or in an 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, and includes

  1. Any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer;
  2. Any successor in interest of an employer; and
  3. Any public agency.



Employment benefits means all benefits provided or made available to employees by an employer, including group life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, annual leave, educational benefits, and pensions, regardless of whether such benefits are provided by a practice or written policy of an employer or through an “employee benefit plan” as defined in section 3(3) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. 1002(3). The term does not include non-employment related obligations paid by employees through voluntary deductions such as supplemental insurance coverage. See § 825.209(a).



FLSA means the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 201 et seq.).



Group health plan means any plan of, or contributed to by, an employer (including a self insured plan) to provide health care (directly or otherwise) to the employer’s employees, former employees, or the families of such employees or former employees. For purposes of FMLA the term “group health plan” shall not include an insurance program providing health coverage under which employees purchase individual policies from insurers provided that:

  1. No contributions are made by the employer;
  2. Participation in the program is completely voluntary for employees;
  3. The sole functions of the employer with respect to the program are, without endorsing the program, to permit the insurer to publicize the program to employees, to collect premiums through payroll deductions and to remit them to the insurer;
  4. The employer receives no consideration in the form of cash or otherwise in connection with the program, other than reasonable compensation, excluding any profit, for administrative services actually rendered in connection with payroll deduction; and,
  5. The premium charged with respect to such coverage does not increase in the event the employment relationship terminates.


Health care provider means:

  1. The Act defines “health care provider” as:
    1. A doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the State in which the doctor practices; or
    2. Any other person determined by the Secretary to be capable of providing health care services.
  2. Others “capable of providing health care services” include only:
    1. Podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists, and chiropractors (limited to treatment consisting of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X ray to exist) authorized to practice in the State and performing within the scope of their practice as defined under State law;
    2. Nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, clinical social workers and physician assistants who are authorized to practice under State law and who are performing within the scope of their practice as defined under State law;
    3. Christian Science Practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts. Where an employee or family member is receiving treatment from a Christian Science practitioner, an employee may not object to any requirement from an employer that the employee or family member submit to examination (though not treatment) to obtain a second or third certification from a health care provider other than a Christian Science practitioner except as otherwise provided under applicable State or local law or collective bargaining agreement.
    4. Any health care provider from whom an employer or the employer’s group health plan’s benefits manager will accept certification of the existence of a serious health condition to substantiate a claim for benefits; and
    5. health care provider listed above who practices in a country other than the United States, who is authorized to practice in accordance with the law of that country, and who is performing within the scope of his or her practice as defined under such law.
  3. The phrase “authorized to practice in the State” as used in this section means that the provider must be authorized to diagnose and treat physical or mental health conditions.



Incapable of self-care means that the individual requires active assistance or supervision to provide daily self care in several of the “activities of daily living” (ADLs) or “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADLs). Activities of daily living include adaptive activities such as caring appropriately for one’s grooming and hygiene, bathing, dressing and eating. Instrumental activities of daily living include cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones and directories, using a post office, etc.



Instructional employee: See the definition of Teacher in this section.



Intermittent leave means leave taken in separate periods of time due to a single illness or injury, rather than for one continuous period of time, and may include leave of periods from an hour or more to several weeks. Examples of intermittent leave would include leave taken on an occasional basis for medical appointments, or leave taken several days at a time spread over a period of six months, such as for chemotherapy.



ITO or ITA, invitational travel order (ITO) or invitational travel authorization (ITA), are orders issued by the Armed Forces to a family member to join an injured or ill servicemember at his or her bedside. See also § 825.310(e).



Key employee means a salaried FMLA-eligible employee who is among the highest paid 10 percent of all the employees employed by the employer within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite. See also § 825.217.



Mental disability: See the definition of Physical or mental disability.



Military caregiver leave means leave taken to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. See § 825.127.



Next of kin of a covered servicemember means the nearest blood relative other than the covered servicemember’s spouse, parent, son, or daughter, in the following order of priority: blood relatives who have been granted legal custody of the covered servicemember by court decree or statutory provisions, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and first cousins, unless the covered servicemember has specifically designated in writing another blood relative as his or her nearest blood relative for purposes of military caregiver leave under the FMLA. When no such designation is made, and there are multiple family members with the same level of relationship to the covered servicemember, all such family members shall be considered the covered servicemember’s next of kin and may take FMLA leave to provide care to the covered servicemember, either consecutively or simultaneously. When such designation has been made, the designated individual shall be deemed to be the covered servicemember’s only next of kin. See also § 825.127(d)(3).



Outpatient status means, with respect to a covered servicemember who is a current member of the Armed Forces, the status of a member of the Armed Forces assigned to either a military medical treatment facility as an outpatient; or a unit established for the purpose of providing command and control of members of the Armed Forces receiving medical care as outpatients. See also § 825.127(b)(1).



Parent means a biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a son or daughter as defined below. This term does not include parents “in law.”



Parent of a covered servicemember means a covered servicemember’s biological, adoptive, step or foster father or mother, or any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the covered servicemember. This term does not include parents “in law.” See also § 825.127(d)(2).



Person means an individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, legal representative, or any organized group of persons, and includes a public agency for purposes of this part.



Physical or mental disability means a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual. Regulations at 29 CFR part 1630, issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., as amended, define these terms.



Public agency means the government of the United States; the government of a State or political subdivision thereof; any agency of the United States (including the United States Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission), a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or any interstate governmental agency. Under section 101(5)(B) of the Act, a public agency is considered to be a “person” engaged in commerce or in an industry or activity affecting commerce within the meaning of the Act.



Reduced leave schedule means a leave schedule that reduces the usual number of hours per workweek, or hours per workday, of an employee.



Reserve components of the Armed Forces, for purposes of qualifying exigency leave, include the Army National Guard of the United States, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard of the United States, Air Force Reserve, and Coast Guard Reserve, and retired members of the Regular Armed Forces or Reserves who are called up in support of a contingency operation. See also § 825.126(a)(2)(i).



Secretary means the Secretary of Labor or authorized representative.



Serious health condition means an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care as defined in § 825.114 or continuing treatment by a health care provider as defined in § 825.115. Conditions for which cosmetic treatments are administered (such as most treatments for acne or plastic surgery) are not “serious health conditions” unless inpatient hospital care is required or unless complications develop. Restorative dental or plastic surgery after an injury or removal of cancerous growths are serious health conditions provided all the other conditions of this regulation are met. Mental illness or allergies may be serious health conditions, but only if all the conditions of § 825.113 are met.



Serious injury or illness means:

  1. In the case of a current member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, an injury or illness that was incurred by the covered servicemember in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces or that existed before the beginning of the member’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces and that may render the servicemember medically unfit to perform the duties of the member’s office, grade, rank, or rating; and
  2. In the case of a covered veteran, an injury or illness that was incurred by the member in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces (or existed before the beginning of the member’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty in the Armed Forces) and manifested itself before or after the member became a veteran, and is:
    1. A continuation of a serious injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated when the covered veteran was a member of the Armed Forces and rendered the servicemember unable to perform the duties of the servicemember’s office, grade, rank, or rating; or
    2. A physical or mental condition for which the covered veteran has received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Service-Related Disability Rating (VASRD) of 50% or greater, and such VASRD rating is based, in whole or in part, on the condition precipitating the need for military caregiver leave; or
    3. A physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the covered veteran’s ability to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation by reason of disability or disabilities related to military service, or would do so absent treatment; or
    4. An injury, including psychological injury, which is the basis on which the covered veteran has been enrolled in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. See also § 825.127(c).



Son or daughter (or child) means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is either under age 18, or age 18 or older and “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability” at the time that FMLA leave is to commence.



Son or daughter of a covered servicemember means a covered servicemember’s biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child for whom the covered servicemember stood in loco parentis, and who is of any age. See also § 825.127(d)(1).



Son or daughter on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status means the employee’s biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, legal ward, or a child for whom the employee stood in loco parentis, who is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status, and who is of any age. See also § 825.126(a)(5).



Spouse means a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized.



State means any State of the United States or the District of Columbia or any Territory or possession of the United States.



Teacher (or employee employed in an instructional capacity, or instructional employee) means an employee employed principally in an instructional capacity by an educational agency or school whose principal function is to teach and instruct students in a class, a small group, or an individual setting, and includes athletic coaches, driving instructors, and special education assistants such as signers for the hearing impaired. The term does not include teacher assistants or aides who do not have as their principal function actual teaching or instructing, nor auxiliary personnel such as counselors, psychologists, curriculum specialists, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, bus drivers, or other primarily non-instructional employees.



TRICARE is the health care program serving active duty servicemembers, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, survivors, and certain former spouses worldwide.