5 Things Every Employer Should Know about the FMLA

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The U.S. Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993 in order to provide job protection for employees needing to take time away from work to deal with medical or family problems. What is now known as the FMLA has changed very little over the last 25 years. As an employer, you are bound to the FMLA just as you are to any other federal regulation pertaining to how you do business.

Small companies may literally go for years without ever encountering the FMLA. So it's easy to ignore it. This post is designed to address that. Regardless of the size of your business, it is imperative that you fully understand all the implications of the FMLA. Below is a list of five things every employer should know about this important legislation.

1. Covered Employers

The law clearly spells out just who the FMLA applies to. It covers all employers that fall under one of the following three qualifying scenarios:

  • Private sector employees with 50 or more employees on the payroll for at least 20 work weeks during the previous calendar year.
  • Public agencies including all local, state, and federal agencies regardless of the number of employees.
  • Public and private elementary and secondary schools regardless of the number of employees.

2. Eligible Employees

The FMLA establishes clear criteria for who is eligible to take federally protected leave. The law defines an eligible employee as one who meets the following criteria:

  • Works for a covered employer;
  • Has worked for that employer for a minimum of 12 months;
  • Has accumulated at least 1,250 working hours for that employer in the previous 12 months; and
  • Physically works at a location within 75 miles of where the employer employs at least 50 workers.

It should be noted that the 12-month requirement mentioned in the second item on the list need not be consecutive. As long as an employee has worked for at least a total of 12 months, the requirement is satisfied.

3. What the FMLA Requires

The FMLA requires that covered employers provide up to 12 weeks of federally protected leave for reasons covered under the law. Those reasons include things like the birth of a child, caring for family member with a serious illness, and one's own serious illness requiring medical treatment.

Federal law does not mandate that employers pay for the time off. It simply states that the affected employee's job must be protected during the leave. Upon return, that employee is entitled to resume his or her position or one that is substantially equivalent.

4. Employer Notice

Employers have certain responsibilities in terms of giving notice. First, they must provide adequate notice about FMLA rights by posting said information in a conspicuous place. Employers must also include FMLA information in employee handbooks or through printed materials provided to new employees at the time of hire.

5. Employee Notice

Employees are required to give at least 30 days’ notice of an intent to take federally protected leave, when such leave is foreseeable. Notice of unforeseeable leave must be given as soon as possible. Employees are not required to cite the FMLA the first time they take federally protected leave. However, all subsequent requests must include a citation of the law and include the specific reason the employee believes he or she is entitled to protected leave.

Although the FMLA is not directly related to payroll processing, it is still something important to BenefitMall. We are happy to help current clients better understand how the FMLA affects them.


  1. DOL https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf