The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects workers who need time away from their jobs for specific, health-related reasons. Prior to its implementation decades ago, companies could fire workers with years of work history because of such issues over which they had no direct control.
Under the FMLA, those who have worked for a company (that is covered by the act) for at least a year may be able to take protected, unpaid leave. There are three scenarios in which workers may qualify for unpaid leave under the FMLA.
Adding a family member
There are typically three ways in which an adult will add a new dependent to the family. Some people require FMLA leave after the birth of a child. Others may adopt a child and take leave once they complete that process. FMLA leave is also available for those who have a child move into their home through foster placement.
Experiencing medical challenges
The FMLA provides people with medical leave for their own health challenges. Someone injured in a car crash who requires time to heal can take a leave of absence while they recuperate. Those who need to undergo treatment for an illness or recover from invasive medical care, like surgery, may also be eligible to take time away from work under the FMLA.
Supporting immediate family members
The final reason that someone may qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA is that a loved one requires help because of a major medical issue. People can take a leave of absence to support a spouse, child or parent who has a significant medical challenge.
Workers should be able to take medical leave without suffering any significant career setbacks when their circumstances are legally protected. Understanding the rules for the FMLA can help people better utilize a law implemented for their well-being.