Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College:
Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect on August 5, 1993 and is described fully by the US Department of Labor (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla). FMLA allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. 

This leave can be used to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, to care for a seriously ill spouse, child or parent, or to take care of one’s own serious health condition. Employees may be required to use personal, vacation and sick leave before using leave under this law. 

The US Department of Labor has a series of Fact Sheets as well as a Frequently Asked Questions document that can help answer questions about FMLA.

Learn more: FMLA Factsheets

Learn more: FMLA Frequently Asked Questions

How does FMLA impact any requirements to provide reasonable accommodations? 

Employees with disabilities may request a leave of absence to address a medical condition or to get treatment for the disability. This leave could be considered either a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act or a request to use FMLA leave – it is the employer’s responsibility to determine which leave apply. The final regulations for the FMLA state that the provisions of the FMLA are to be considered separate and distinct from reasonable accommodations provisions of the ADA. 

The FMLA regulations also state that an employee who is no longer able to perform the essential functions of the job does not have a right to job restoration under the FMLA. However, the ADA may obligate the employer to provide an accommodation if the individual is a qualified individual with a disability, unless it would cause undue hardship. 

Which employers are required to follow FMLA? 

Employers who are required to comply with this law are those private employers with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile area and all public employers (state, local and federal government organizations). 

Who is covered by FMLA? 

To be eligible, an employee must have been employed a minimum of 12 months (not necessarily consecutive). During the 12 months preceding the leave, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours. Leave due to the serious health condition of a spouse, child, parent, or of oneself is clearly defined in the law, primarily an injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. These conditions also include mental illnesses resulting from stress; substance abuse is covered only if the leave is to seek treatment from a health care provider. 

Who is responsible for enforcement of FMLA? 

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Wage and Hour Division, is responsible for enforcement of this law. For more information, contact the Department toll free at (866) 487-9243. A Compliance Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act also is available from the DOL at no cost. 


Note: The information contained in these pages is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice. Individuals should contact the appropriate legal resources for specific legal advice regarding their particular situations.

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