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What Is FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, was approved in 1993 to permit employees to take a maximum of 12 or 26 weeks, job-protected, unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons during a 12 month period. The FMLA was designed to do three main things:

  • aid individuals with balancing the pressures of the workplace with the needs of their families
  • promote the economic security of families
  • support national interests in protecting the integrity of families

The FMLA is very specific and defines which employers are covered and eligible for leave, and describes the preservation of health benefits during leave, as well as job restoration after leave. It protects those employees who request leave, the certification of need and notice of leave, and employers’ recordkeeping requirements.

The law also protects employees by prohibiting employers from interfering with, preventing, or denying any right provided by the FMLA. Any FMLA violations that cannot be resolved equitably can be brought to court by the U.S. Department of Labor to enforce compliance. Employees are also entitled to bring a private, civil action against an employer for FMLA violations.

The FMLA, however, does not replace any state or local law that provides greater family or medical leave protection, and does not affect an employer’s obligation to provide greater leave rights under a collective-bargaining agreement or employment benefits plan.