Are All Employers Required to Allow FMLA Time Off?

father, baby, portrait

Are you aware of your rights when it comes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? Understanding FMLA rights is crucial for both employees and employers, as it can directly impact job security and well-being. One common question is, “are all employers required to allow FMLA time off?” This comprehensive blog post will guide you through FMLA coverage, eligibility requirements, leave entitlements, and state-specific family and medical leave laws while addressing this important question. Let’s dive in and explore how FMLA works and how it can benefit you.

Key Takeaways

  • Employers with 50+ employees and public agencies must comply with FMLA regulations.
  • Employees need to have worked 12 months, 1,250 hours in the past year for eligibility.
  • Benefits include unpaid leave for childbirth/adoption/foster care & medical reasons. State laws may provide additional benefits beyond federal FMLA rights.

FMLA Coverage: Which Employers Must Comply?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that offers eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year while maintaining their group health benefits and job protection. The following entities must comply with these FMLA requirements:

  • Private sector employers
  • Public agencies
  • Schools
  • Some special cases like airline flight crew employees

All of these entities are required to follow the FMLA, including provisions related to an employee’s spouse.

We’ll dissect these categories to clarify which employers are required to comply.

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Private Sector Employers

For private sector employers, FMLA coverage applies if they employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in either the current or previous calendar year. There are no exceptions for specific types of private sector businesses. To comply with FMLA, private employers must adhere to rules such as:

  • Meeting eligibility criteria
  • Providing unpaid leave
  • Maintaining group health benefits
  • Fulfilling certification requirements

Public Agencies and Schools

Public agencies, including state, local, and federal agencies, as well as public and private elementary and secondary schools, are all covered by FMLA, regardless of the number of employees they have. Size does not make a difference when it comes to FMLA requirements, and both public and private schools must follow the same rules set by the FMLA.

Special Cases: Airline Flight Crew Employees

Airline flight crew employees, such as flight attendants and flight crew members, have unique FMLA requirements. To be an eligible employee for FMLA leave, employees must meet several requirements:

  • They must work for a covered employer
  • They must be employed at a worksite where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles
  • They must have been employed for 12 months
  • They must have met the hours of service requirement

For airline flight crew employees, there are certain specific requirements which must be fulfilled. They must have worked or received pay for at least 60% of their applicable monthly guarantee and a total of 504 hours in the 12 months prior to leave commencement, with personal commute time and days off due to vacation, medical or sick leave excluded.

Eligibility Requirements for Employees

Having identified the employers that must comply with FMLA, we can now examine the criteria employees must satisfy to qualify for FMLA leave. Employees must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for FMLA leave. They must:

  • Have been employed with their employer for a minimum of 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours within the last year
  • Work for a company with 50 or more employees based at a location within 75 miles.

Hours of Service Requirement

To meet the hours of service requirement for FMLA eligibility, employees must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and clocked in at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer in the 12 months before their FMLA leave starts. It is important to note that only the hours actually worked for the employer are included in the calculation, and paid leave and unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, don’t count towards the hours of service requirement.

Length of Employment

The length of employment requirement for FMLA eligibility is a minimum of 12 months with the same employer. Non-consecutive 12 months of employment can be taken into account for FMLA eligibility, ensuring that employees with breaks in service still have access to FMLA benefits when needed.

Worksite Location

Finally, to be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must work at a location where the company employs at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius. This requirement is important to ensure that employers with multiple locations maintain a consistent FMLA policy across their worksites.

FMLA Leave Entitlements and Qualifying Reasons

Armed with a clear grasp of the eligibility requirements, we can now proceed to investigate the different reasons employees can avail FMLA leave. The FMLA allows employees to take leave for situations such as:

  • Childbirth
  • Adoption
  • Serious health conditions
  • Military family leave

In the subsequent subsections, we’ll explore each of these factors, including qualifying exigency, in detail.

Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care

FMLA leave entitlements for childbirth, adoption, and foster care allow eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. This leave can be used when a child is placed with the employee and also to bond with the child.

Both parents are entitled to FMLA leave, and it’s important to note that the leave must be taken within one year of the child’s birth or placement.

Serious Health Conditions

Serious health conditions that qualify for FMLA leave include any illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that requires inpatient care or ongoing treatment by a health care provider. Examples of serious health conditions include cancer, heart attacks, strokes, severe injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, and terminal diseases.

Employees can also qualify for FMLA leave if they donate an organ, as long as the organ donation requires either inpatient care or continuing treatment as defined in the regulations.

sailors, saluting, isolated

Military Family Leave

Military family leave entitlements under FMLA include up to 12 workweeks of family leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of the deployment of a military member and up to 26 workweeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a family member who is a current service member with a serious injury or illness.

These provisions ensure that military families with members on covered active duty status have access to the support they need during challenging times.

Navigating Employer and Employee Responsibilities

Comprehending FMLA rights and responsibilities is crucial for both employers and employees. Employers must ensure they comply with FMLA requirements, while employees need to be aware of their rights and obligations when requesting and taking FMLA leave. This section encompasses the responsibilities of both employers and employees, inclusive of notice requirements and medical certification.

Employer Notice Requirements

Employers must inform their employees of their rights and obligations regarding FMLA. They must also make sure that they understand this information. They must post a general notice explaining the FMLA’s provisions and how to file a claim under the Act in a visible spot where employees and applicants can easily see it.

When an employee requests FMLA leave or the employer becomes aware that the leave might be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must inform the employee of their eligibility to take leave and provide them with information on their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.

Employee Notice Requirements

Employees requesting FMLA leave must provide their employer with notice. For foreseeable leave, they need to give 30 days notice, while for unforeseeable leave, they need to give notice as soon as possible. When providing notice, it’s important for employees to include all relevant information, such as the reason for the leave, the anticipated start and end dates, and any medical certification or documentation required by the employer.

Medical Certification and Verification

Obtaining medical certification and verification is an important aspect of FMLA leave. If an employee or their immediate family member requires FMLA leave due to a serious health condition, the employer may request medical certification from a health care provider. Employees are given at least 15 calendar days to obtain the certification, and the employer may request additional information or clarification if necessary.

Intermittent and Reduced Schedule Leaves

In some cases, employees may need to take FMLA leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis. This means taking leave in separate blocks of time or reducing their usual weekly or daily work schedule.

This section highlights the approval process and alternate job placements for employees opting for intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave.

Approval Process

When an employee requires intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave for foreseeable medical treatments, they must work with their employer to schedule the leave so as not to disrupt the employer’s operations. In addition, the employee’s health care provider must approve the intermittent or reduced schedule leave.

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Alternative Job Placements

Employers may provide employees taking intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave with an alternative job that offers equivalent pay and benefits while accommodating their recurring periods of leave. This can help ensure that both the employee’s and the employer’s needs are met during the FMLA leave period.

Addressing Violations and Enforcement

Unfortunately, there may be situations where unpaid FMLA rights are violated, either due to misunderstanding or intentional non-compliance, with an employee unable to exercise their rights properly.

This section elucidates how to report FMLA violations and the possible repercussions for employers who neglect FMLA requirements.

Reporting Violations

If you believe your FMLA rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor by calling 1-866-487-9243 or visiting their website at dol.gov/agencies/whd. When reporting a violation, it is important to provide all relevant information and documentation, such as details of the violation, dates, times, and any attempts made to resolve the issue.

Consequences for Non-Compliance

Employers who fail to comply with FMLA requirements may face significant consequences, including civil money penalties, private civil actions from employees, and potential liability for lost wages and benefits.

It is essential for employers to be knowledgeable about FMLA requirements and to ensure they are following all applicable laws and regulations to avoid these potentially costly penalties.

State-Specific Family and Medical Leave Laws

In addition to the federal FMLA, many states have enacted their own family and medical leave laws, which may provide additional rights and benefits to employees. This section will focus on state-specific family and medical leave laws, their interaction with the FMLA, alongside examples of such state-specific laws.

How State Laws Interact with FMLA

State family and medical leave laws do not supersede federal FMLA requirements. However, if a state law provides more family or medical leave rights than the FMLA, the state law takes precedence.

It is important for employees to understand both the federal FMLA and any applicable state laws to determine their rights and entitlements regarding family and medical leave.

Arkansas-Specific Laws for FMLA Time Off

In Arkansas, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) governs family and medical leave laws, allowing eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. There are no major differences between Arkansas’ laws and federal FMLA laws.

Employees in Arkansas should familiarize themselves with FMLA requirements to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities.

Susan’s Story

When Susan’s father fell ill, she requested time off under the Family Medical Leave Act from her employer, a large Arkansas manufacturing company. Susan provided the required medical paperwork, expecting her leave to be approved. But instead, her supervisor denied the request, insisting they were too short staffed.

Frustrated and worried, Susan contacted wh Law. Our lawyers informed Susan that as a company with over 100 employees, her employer was required by law to comply with FMLA regulations. Denying her leave request was illegal.

Armed with this knowledge, Susan set up a meeting with human resources and explained that the FMLA protected her right to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for her sick father. She made it clear she would seek legal recourse if they continued to violate her rights.

Human resources then reluctantly approved Susan’s FMLA leave per the federal requirements. For the next two months, Susan was able to be by her beloved father’s side during his treatment, without fear of losing her job.


Understanding your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is essential for both employees and employers. By being knowledgeable about FMLA coverage, eligibility requirements, leave entitlements, and state-specific family and medical leave laws, employees can ensure they are protected during times of need, and employers can maintain compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Stay informed and empower yourself with the knowledge of your FMLA rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules around FMLA?

To qualify for FMLA leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work for a company that employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Once qualified, employees are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or to care for a family member, or to attend to their own serious medical health condition.

Does FMLA apply to every business regardless of the number of employees?

No, the FMLA does not apply to every business regardless of the number of employees. Generally, private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the FMLA, while government agencies and public and private elementary and secondary schools are covered regardless of the number of employees.

Can you be fired if FMLA is denied?

You cannot be fired if your FMLA is denied as employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who attempt to exercise their rights under the FMLA.

What are some of the responsibilities that employees have during their FMLA leave?

Employees must make reasonable efforts to schedule medical treatment, may take leave due to qualifying exigencies on an intermittent basis, and may choose or be required to use accrued paid leave while taking FMLA leave.

What types of employers are required to comply with the FMLA?

Private sector employers with 50 or more employees, public agencies, schools, and airline flight crew employees are all required to comply with the FMLA.