Family and medical leave act

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
Long title An Act To grant family and temporary medical leave under certain circumstances.
Colloquial acronym(s) FMLA
Enacted by the  103rd United States Congress
Public Law Stat. 107 Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as MI) on January 5, 1993
  • Committee consideration by: House Education and Labor, House Post Office and Civil Service
  • Passed the House on February 3, 1993 (265–163)
  • Passed the Senate on February 4, 1993 (71–27) with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on February 4, 1993 (Via 247–152)
  • Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on February 5, 1993

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a United States federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. Qualified medical and family reasons include: personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child.[1] The FMLA is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the United States Department of Labor.

The bill was a major part of took effect on August 5, 1993, six months later.

The FMLA was intended "to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families."[2] The Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to attend to the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for adoption or foster care of a child. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have been at the business at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. The FMLA covers both public- and private-sector employees, but certain categories of employees are excluded, including elected officials and their personal staff members.[3]


In 2007, the Department of Labor estimated that of the 141.7 million workers in the United States, 94.4 million worked at FMLA-covered worksites, and 76.1 million were eligible for FMLA leave. Between 8 percent and 17.1 percent of covered and eligible workers (or between 6.1 million and 13.0 million workers) took FMLA leave in 2005.[4] The 2008 National Survey of Employers found no statistically significant difference between the proportion of small employers (79%) and large employers (82%) that offer full FMLA coverage.[5]

Benefits for Employees Mandated by the Law

To qualify for the FMLA mandate, a worker must be employed by a business with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of his or her worksite, or a public agency, including schools and state, local, and federal employers (the 50-employee threshold does not apply to public agency employees and local educational agencies). He or she must also have worked for that employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive) and 1,250 hours within the last 12 months. (There are special hours rules for certain airline employees.[6])

The FMLA mandates unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks a year:

  • to care for a new child, whether for the birth of a son or daughter, or for the adoption or placement of a child in foster care;
  • to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, son, daughter, or parent) (Note: Son/daughter has been clarified by the Department of Labor to mean a child under the age of 18 or a child over the age of 18 with a mental or physical disability as defined by the American Disabilities Act, which excludes among other conditions, pregnancy and post-partum recovery from childbirth);[7]
  • to recover from a worker’s own serious illness;
  • to care for an injured service member in the family; or
  • to address qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s deployment.

The FMLA further requires employers to provide for eligible workers:

  • The same group health insurance benefits, including employer contributions to premiums, that would exist if the employee were not on leave.
  • Restoration to the same position upon return to work. If the same position is unavailable, the employer must provide the worker with a position that is substantially equal in pay, benefits, and responsibility.
  • Protection of employee benefits while on leave. An employee is entitled to reinstatement of all benefits to which the employee was entitled before going on leave.
  • Protection of the employee to not have their rights under the Act interfered with or denied by an employer.
  • Protection of the employee from retaliation by an employer for exercising rights under the Act.
  • Intermittent FMLA leave for his or her own serious health condition, or the serious health condition of a family member. This includes occasional leave for doctors’ appointments for a chronic condition, treatment (e.g., physical therapy, psychological counseling,chemotherapy), or temporary periods of incapacity (e.g., severe morning sickness, asthma attack).[8]

Non-eligible workers and types of leave

The federal FMLA does not apply to:

  • workers in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (this threshold does not apply to public agency employers and local educational agencies);
  • part-time workers who have worked fewer than 1,250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave and a paid vacation;
  • workers who need time off to care for seriously ill elderly relatives (other than parents) or pets;
  • workers who need time off to recover from short-term or common illness like a cold, or to care for a family member with a short-term illness;
  • elected officials; and
  • workers who need time off for routine medical care, such as check-ups.

State-level FMLA benefits

Some states have enacted laws that mandate additional family and medical leave for workers in a variety of ways.

Dropping the employer threshold

The federal FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Some states have enacted their own FMLAs that have a lower threshold for employer coverage:

  • Maine: 15 or more employees (private employers)[9] and 25 or more (city or town employers).[10]
  • Minnesota: 21 or more employees (parental leave only).[11]
  • Oregon: 25 or more employees.[12]
  • Rhode Island: 50 or more employees (private employers)[13] and 30 or more employees (public employers).[14]
  • Vermont: 10 or more employees (parental leave only)[15] and 15 or more employees (family and medical leave).[16]
  • Washington: 50 or more employees (FMLA reasons besides insured parental leave);[17] all employers are required to provide insured parental leave.[18][19]
  • District of Columbia: 20 or more employees.[20]

Expanding the definition of family

The federal FMLA only applies to immediate family—parent, spouse, and child. The 2008 amendments to the FMLA for military family members extend the FMLA’s protection to next of kin and to adult children. The Department of Labor on June 22, 2010 clarified the definition of "son and daughter" under the FMLA "to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship" and specifying that "an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child."[21] Some states had already expanded the definition of family in their own FMLAs:

  • California: Domestic partner and domestic partner’s child.[22]
  • Connecticut: Civil union partner,[23] parent-in-law.[24]
  • Hawaii: Grandparent, parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law[25] or an employee's reciprocal beneficiary.[26]
  • Maine: Domestic partner and domestic partner’s child,[27] siblings.[28]
  • New Jersey: Civil union partner and child of civil union partner,[29] parent-in-law, step parent.[30]
  • Oregon: Domestic partner,[31] grandparent, grandchild or parent-in-law.[32]
  • Rhode Island: Domestic partners of state employees, parent-in-law.[33]
  • Vermont: Civil union partner,[34] parent-in-law.[35]
  • Wisconsin: Parent-in-law.[36]
  • District of Columbia: Related to the worker by blood, legal custody, or marriage; person with whom the employee lives and has a committed relationship; child who lives with employee and for whom employee permanently assumes and discharges parental responsibility.[37]

Increasing the uses for FMLA leave

FMLA leave can be used for a worker’s serious health condition, the serious health condition of a family member, or upon the arrival of a new child. State FMLA laws and the new military family provisions of the FMLA have broadened these categories:

  • Connecticut: Organ or bone marrow donor.[38]
  • Maine: Organ donor;[39] death of employee’s family member if that family member is a servicemember killed while on active duty.[40]
  • Oregon: Care for the non-serious injury or illness of a child requiring home care.[41]

Other unpaid leave statutes

Several states have passed FMLA-type statutes to give parents unpaid leave to attend their child’s school or educational activities. Examples include: California,[42] District of Columbia,[43] Massachusetts,[44] Minnesota,[45] Rhode Island,[46] Vermont.[47] Some states have passed FMLA-type statutes to give workers unpaid leave to take family members to routine medical visits, including Massachusetts[48] and Vermont.[49] And states have passed FMLA-type statutes to give workers unpaid leave to address the effects of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Examples include Colorado,[50] Florida,[51] Hawaii,[52] and Illinois.[53]


Critics of the act have suggested that by mandating various forms of leave that are used more often by female than male employees, the Act, like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, makes women more expensive to employ than men. They argue that employers will engage in subtle discrimination against women in the hiring process, discrimination which is much less obvious to detect than pregnancy discrimination against the already hired. Supporters counter that the act, in contrast to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, is aimed at both women and men, and is part of an overall strategy to encourage both men and women to take family-related leave.

In January, 2011, two grieving parents, Kelly Farley of Chicago and Barry Kluger, of Scottsdale, Arizona, began a national petition to urge Congress to amend the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 to include loss of a child, which currently is not covered in the national bill nor the states, although Maine offers leave for a service member killed in action. The Farley-Kluger Initiative is supported by 18 national organizations, including: Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), the military organizations Blue Star Families, Marine, Gold Star Family Support, The JED Foundation (college-age suicide), The American Institute of Healthcare Professionals, The American Academy of Grief Counselors, The Children's Bereavement Center, the M.I.S.S. Foundation and others. On February 5, 2013, the 20th anniversary of the FMLA being signed into law by President Clinton, Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), introduced the Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger Act in the House of Representatives (HR515) with a companion bill introduced the same day by Sen.Jon Tester (D-MT), inspired by signatures and letters received from the Farley-Kluger Initiative Petition, The Parental Bereavement Act of 2013 (S226). As of April 15, 2013, there are 16 House sponsors and seven Senate Sponsors.

See also

Parental leave


External links

  • Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 29 U.S. Code Chapter 28
  • Department of Labor Family & Medical Leave information pages
  • Senate roll call vote
  • House roll call vote
  •'s FMLA Info Page
  • Internet Movie Database - A made-for-TV film about the act in which President Clinton appears briefly as himself.
  • FMLA Insights Jeff Nowak to help employers understand and administer FMLA and to keep employers up to date on changes in the FMLA
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.