The federally mandated Family Medical Leave Act allows working employees to take unpaid leave from work, with their job and benefits remaining protected upon their return. Employees who are eligible for FMLA leave may take up to 12 weeks of leave in one year. There are six defined categories that fall under FMLA coverage for eligibility, under which your employer must ensure a job at the same level you had before your leave and with the same benefits and insurance when you return.

    The Birth of a Child

    12 weeks of leave (formerly referred to as maternity or paternity leave) is guaranteed for employees who qualify for FMLA. This leave is to allow parents to be present for their child’s birth as well as to be home during their baby’s first few months of life to bond as a family.

    This leave may be taken up to 12 months from the child’s date of birth. Some families opt to take this leave in shifts with one parent home for the first 12 weeks, followed by the second parent home from weeks 12-24.  In most cases, this leave must be taken as a continuous block of time unless otherwise agreed upon with the employer as they see fit.

    Adoption or Foster Care Placement

    Similar to the leave after the birth of a child, any eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of continuous leave to care for and bond with a new child in their home after adoption or placement within the foster care system. If necessary, the leave may begin before the official adoption or placement date to allow employees to attend necessary court dates, meetings or travel as the process requires.

    This leave expires 12 months after the placement or adoption date, and must be taken in one block of time unless the employer and employee agree to other arrangements.

    An Employee’s Serious Health Condition

    If an employee is too ill, injured, or otherwise medically unable to perform their job functions, that employee is entitled to 12 weeks of FMLA leave to recuperate. Likewise, if an employee is undergoing medical treatment requiring absences from work, they are considered unable to perform the necessary functions of their job, so are awarded FMLA leave.

    Caring for an Employee’s Spouse’s, Child’s, or Parent’s Serious Health Condition

    If an employee is needed to help care for their immediate family member suffering from a serious health condition, they are allotted up to 12 weeks of leave to do so. Necessary care for a family member is defined by a situation where the family member is unable to care for his or her own needs without assistance, or to provide comfort and reassurance to the family member who is suffering from a serious medical condition.

    Legally, to qualify for FMLA terms, an immediate family member is classified as one of the following:


    A husband or wife as defined or recognized within your state including traditional marriage, same-sex marriage, or common law marriage.

    Son or Daughter

    In order to take FMLA leave to care for a child, that child must be your biological son or daughter, an adopted or foster child, a stepchild, a child over whom you have legal guardianship, or a child of a person in loco parentis. This child must be under age 18, or be 18 or older and “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability” at the time of the start of FMLA leave.


    An employee may take FMLA leave to care for his or her mother or father, whether biological, adoptive, step or foster. An employee may care for someone who stood in loco parentis for him or her as a child, but may NOT use FMLA leave to care for a parent in-law.

    In Loco Parentis

    “In loco parentis” is defined as a person who fulfilled the care or financial duties of a parent, even though they had no biological or legal connection to the child. Under FMLA terms, an employee who is standing in loco parentis may use FMLA leave to care for a child, or may use FMLA leave to care for a parent who stood in loco parentis for them as a child.

    Military Deployment of an Employee’s Spouse, Child or Parent

    Certain situations qualify under FMLA rules to allow an employee to take leave in the event of their family member’s overseas deployment. In most cases, this allows an employee to use their 12 weeks of leave to fill in necessary child care duties that were left vacant by a spouse’s or parent’s deployment. Likewise, FMLA leave can be used to visit a family member in the military who is on R&R leave during deployment, to attend necessary financial or legal meetings that arise due to deployment or other qualifying exigencies.

    Military Caregiver Leave

    An employee may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in one year to care for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury. The employee must be the spouse, child, parent or next of kin of the injured service member to qualify for this leave.

    What Qualifies as a “Serious Health Condition?”

    In order to provide clarity for FMLA leave, a serious health condition is the term that encompasses inpatient care, incapacity for more than 3 days with continued treatment by a healthcare provider, incapacity related to pregnancy or prenatal care, chronic serious health conditions, permanent or long-term incapacity, and certain conditions requiring multiple medical treatments.

    Inpatient Care

    is any condition requiring an overnight stay at a hospital or other care facility. If an employee or his or her child or parent requires inpatient care, they are eligible to take FMLA leave for the duration of the inpatient care as well as the time of incapacity or treatment following that inpatient care.

    Incapacity for More Than 3 Days

    with continuing treatment is covered by FMLA as a serious health condition. If someone misses work for an illness or injury for more than three days (even if not consecutively), they are eligible for FMLA leave. In addition, their leave can be used to cover any continuing treatment related to their illness or injury. This treatment usually refers to at least two treatments by a healthcare provider within 30 days of the start of the illness, or one treatment accompanied by a regimen of continued treatment that begins within 7 days of onset of the condition.

    Pregnancy or Prenatal Care

    includes incapacity due to morning sickness, fatigue, or prenatal checkups and exams. This leave is covered even if it is less than three days and the employee need not see a doctor during this time.

    Chronic Serious Health Conditions

    are covered by FMLA leave if the same condition requires periodic treatments or doctor visits (defined as at least two per year), if the condition continues for an extended period of time, or if the incapacity comes and goes sporadically instead of continually. Typically, this category of FMLA leave is used for cases of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, or other known conditions that result in episodic incapacity.

    Permanent or Long-Term Incapacity

    allows an employee to take leave for continuing incapacity when treatments have not worked or may not be effective enough to allow the employee to return to work. Examples of long-term incapacity include stroke, terminal cancer or other diseases and Alzheimer’s.

    Conditions Requiring Multiple Treatments

    include cancer diagnoses that require chemotherapy, reconstructive surgery after severe accidents or rehabilitation after surgery or injury. These treatments are covered under FMLA leave if they prevent an outcome that would result in more than three consecutive days of incapacity if they were left untreated.

    FMLA Leave is Protected Under Employment Laws

    If you or an immediate family member has suffered an illness, injury or other situation requiring you to take FMLA leave, but your employer is not cooperating, you may have a legal claim to get the leave you need. Contact an experienced FMLA attorney who can help you better understand your rights under FMLA law.

    Does arthritis qualify for FMLA?
    To be officially considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your doctor must first diagnose you as having a disability. If you have limited mobility, significant pain or moderate to severe arthritis, you probably qualify. more
    Is acid reflux covered under FMLA?
    In common parlance it would not be unusual, for instance, for a person to say he is having a “flare-up” of seasonal allergies or acid reflux, conditions unlikely to meet the FMLA's definition of a “serious medical condition. Ed did neither. FMLA claims dismissed. more
    Is anxiety covered under FMLA?
    A chronic condition whether physical or mental (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, dissociative disorders) that may cause occasional periods when an individual is unable to work is a qualifying serious health condition if it requires treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year and recurs over an more
    Can you get FMLA for diabetes?
    In addition to qualifying for FMLA leave because of a serious health condition, people with diabetes generally qualify for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state antidiscrimination laws. more
    Can you get FMLA for anxiety?
    If you have an anxiety disorder, there is a good chance that your condition qualifies you for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 1 You may find that your symptoms worsen while under stress or become more difficult to control during certain times of the year. more
    What happens when FMLA is exhausted?
    An employee has no absolute right to continued employment under either workers' compensation or the ADA after FMLA leave has been exhausted and they cannot return to work. However, an employer should consider options other than termination before terminating the employee under this circumstance. more
    Do diabetics qualify for FMLA?
    An employee with diabetes who needs continuing or intermittent leave, or a part-time or modified schedule, as a reasonable accommodation also may be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). more
    Does diabetes qualify for FMLA?
    In addition to qualifying for FMLA leave because of a serious health condition, people with diabetes generally qualify for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal and state antidiscrimination laws. more
    What conditions qualify for FMLA leave?
    In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must (1) work for a covered employer, (2) work 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, (3) work at a location where 50 or more employees work at that location or within 75 miles of it, and (4) have worked for the employer for 12 more
    Can I get FMLA for fibromyalgia?
    Yes, IF: You have a physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity (i.e., walking, talking, learning.) more
    Do you get paid for FMLA?
    The FMLA allows for 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period – but the leave is unpaid. You may be able to use paid leave while on FMLA leave. You're only eligible to take FMLA leave under certain circumstances. Not every employer – or employee – is covered. more


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