When facing a serious health condition, either personally or as a caregiver for a loved one, the added concern of job security can compound an already challenging situation. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a valuable resource that may alleviate some of this stress.
Whether your absence from work is necessitated by your own health condition or the need to care for a family member (parent, spouse, or child) facing a serious health issue, FMLA offers unpaid but job-protected leave. This leave can be taken in a continuous block or intermittently, depending on the requirements of the medical situation.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must be employed by a covered employer. Typically, private employers with a workforce of at least 50 employees fall under the law's coverage. Smaller private employers, with fewer than 50 employees, may not be covered by FMLA but could be subject to state family and medical leave laws. Notably, government agencies (at all levels) and elementary and secondary schools are covered by FMLA, regardless of the number of employees.
Eligibility for FMLA leave involves additional criteria even if you work for a covered employer. Firstly, you must have a minimum of 12 months of employment with the same employer. This does not need to be continuous, meaning even seasonal work can count. However, if there was a break in service lasting more than seven years, the period preceding the seven-year break is not considered.
Secondly, you need to have worked for the employer for a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding your leave. This averages out to approximately 24 hours per week over the course of a year.
Understanding and meeting these criteria is crucial for individuals seeking the support offered by FMLA during challenging health circumstances.