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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires that covered employers provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work for the birth of a child, or to care for a spouse, parent or child of the employee with a serious health condition.  In general terms a “serious health condition” means an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care, a period of incapacity of more than 3 days that also involves treatment by a health care provider two or more times, or treatment on at least one occasion that results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of a health care provider.  An employee may take intermittent leave in separate blocks of time due to a single qualifying condition.  At the conclusion of the employee’s FMLA leave the employer is obligated to return the employee to the same position, or to an equivalent position, with equivalent pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment.

To be covered under the FMLA, an employer must employ at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius.  Eligible employees must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and a minimum of 1,250 hours during the 12 month period.  Employees must give the employer 30 calendar days notice of the need for leave if the leave is foreseeable, or as soon as practicable if the leave is unforeseeable.  Employers also have certain notice requirements, not the least of which is to provide an eligibility notice to the employee within 5 business days after the employee either requests leave or the employer learns that the employee’s leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason.

Problems arise when an employer interferes with an employee’s right to FMLA leave, and also when an employer retaliates against an employee who has taken or attempted to take FMLA leave.

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