The Chicago Employment Law Blog

FMLA Overview: Rights and Responsibilities

There is perhaps no body of employment law more misunderstood than the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). As a result, an overview of the FMLA, which provides unpaid leave for eligible employees, may be in order.

Covered Employers

Not every employer has to provide FMLA leave. In fact, only private sector employers that employ 50 or more employees generally have to provide such leave.

Eligible Employees

Not every employee of a covered employer is eligible for FMLA leave. To be eligible, an employee must generally have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours of service during the preceding 12-month period. In addition, the employee must be taking leave for a qualifying reason.

Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period typically for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his job; or
  • For any qualifying exigency arising related to military duty.

Notice of Leave

Assuming all the other requirements are met, the employee still must give proper notice of leave. This can include complying with the employer's usual and customary requirements for requesting leave and providing enough information for the employer to reasonably determine whether the FMLA may apply. Employees generally must request leave 30 days in advance when the need for leave is foreseeable, or as soon as possible if not foreseeable.

Medical Certifications

If the reason for leave is due to a medical reason, the employer may require certification from a health care provider. An employer may also require second or third medical opinions and periodic recertification of a serious health condition.

Job Restoration and Health Benefits

While FMLA leave is unpaid, the law entitles you to be restored to your original job (or a similar position) when you return. Employers are also required to continue group health insurance coverage during FMLA leave.

If you have more questions about the FMLA and how it may apply to your specific situation, contact a Chicago employment lawyer.

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