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

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Overview

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if they had not taken leave.

The FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by taking reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promotes equal employment opportunity for men and women.

The FMLA:

  • Covers only certain employers;
  • Affects only those employees eligible for the protections of the law;
  • Involves entitlement to leave;
  • Maintains health benefits during leave;
  • Restores an employee's job after leave;
  • Sets requirements for notice and certification of the need for leave;
  • Protects employees who request or take leave; and
  • Includes certain employer recordkeeping requirements.

Eligible employees of covered employers are entitled to FMLA leave for:

  • The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child;
  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • Care for a family member with a serious health condition;
  • The employee's own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her job; or
  • Certain reasons related to the military service of the employee’s family member (qualifying exigency and military caregiver leave).

The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with employees' rights under the law and authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate and enforce its provisions (See Investigative Authority). Employees cannot waive, nor may employers induce employees to waive, their prospective rights under the FMLA. This does not prevent the settlement of FMLA claims by employees based on past employer conduct without the approval of the DOL or a court. (See § 825.220 of the FMLA regulations.) Furthermore, nothing in the FMLA or its regulations prevents an employer from providing an employee with greater protections and/or more leave than entitled to under the law even if the employee is not, by law, eligible and/or the employer is not covered.

Continue to Coverage and Eligibility

If you have already established employer coverage and employee eligibility, continue to the Main Menu.