The federal Family and Medical Leave Act protects your job under certain circumstances. For example, you can take time off when you or a family member is seriously ill or when you have or adopt a new baby.

Understand the provisions of FMLA and how they may impact your life and career plans.

Who does FMLA cover?

Your job is subject to FMLA protection if:

  • You work for a private business with at least 50 employees.
  • You have worked for the company for at least 12 months in the past seven years.
  • Your work location has at least 50 other employees within 75 miles.

When can I take time off under FMLA?

This law requires an employer to hold a covered job position for 12 weeks when the employee takes leave to:

  • Recover from a serious health condition
  • Care for a parent, spouse or child recovering from a serious health condition
  • Complete a military deployment
  • Care for and bond with a newborn child
  • Care for and bond with a child placed with the family for adoption or foster care

Time off does not need to be consecutive.

What is a serious health condition according to FMLA?

Health issues that the law categorizes as serious include any illness or injury that requires a hospital stay and/or requires ongoing medical treatment for three or more consecutive days. FMLA also covers chronic conditions that occasionally manifest with debilitating symptoms. Also, employees can take time off for medical issues during pregnancy, including illness, bed rest and prenatal care appointments.

What protections do I receive?

While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must keep your job open for you or provide a similar job when you return. The company may not penalize you with disciplinary action or loss of promotion opportunities for taking time off under FMLA.

Whenever possible, you must give your employer 30 days’ advance notice before taking FMLA leave. The company must tell you whether you are eligible or provide a valid reason for denial within five business days.