The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that enables eligible employees to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical conditions. Employees of "covered employers" may take up to 12 weeks of annual unpaid leave for (1) medical reasons related to the employee or a family member; (2) the birth, adoption or foster-care placement of a child; (3) exigencies related to a family member's covered active-duty military service; and (4) caring for a relative's injuries or illnesses related to active-duty military service. The FMLA also requires the employer to maintain existing health benefits for employees during their leave.
"Covered employers" are (1) private employers with 50 or more employees during 20 or more workweeks in a calendar year; and (2) all public agencies and all public and private elementary and secondary schools. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if (a) they have worked for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the first day of leave, and (b) they work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of each other. The 12-month period need not be continuous or consecutive, and all time worked for an employer is counted.
As a general rule, employers must restore employees returning from FMLA leave to the same job or an equivalent one - that is, a job with the same pay, benefits, working conditions, privileges, perquisites and status as their previously held position. The equivalent position also must be near the same worksite and involve a similar work schedule. An exception applies when restoring a "key employee" (one whose pay is in the top 10% of the employer's workforce) would cause a substantial and serious economic injury to the employer's business.
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