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Understanding the FMLA

For many employers or business owners, there are a few regulations, acts and laws that apply on a broad, federal level, that must be understood and adhered to, such as the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). Essentially, this act stipulates that, under certain conditions, an employee may take leave of a job without pay, for a given amount of time within a year.

The leave can either be up to twelve weeks or twenty-six in a consecutive twelve-month period of time, depending on which set of circumstances apply. Basically, the only circumstance that allows for a twenty-six week leave is:

"... to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave)."

Allowances for twelve weeks of leave include (but are not limited to) an employee's health condition, that of a family member (thus requiring the employee's care), and care of a baby in the year following his or her birth.

The benefits the FMLA provides employees meeting these circumstances are two fold.


  1. The employee's job will be protected. He or she can take the appropriate amount of leave without concern that it will result in termination and, upon the end of the period of leave, he or she must be restored either to the job he or she worked prior to taking leave, or one that is equivalent.

  2. The employee may continue to receive group health benefits, as though he or she was not on leave.


Following the FMLA is important for employers who do not wish to face legal consequences should an employee whose FMLA rights were denied file a complaint. The United States Department of Labor FMLA website provides a collection of useful resources and FAQ for employers seeking additional information about the act.