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Terms and Definitions

What is the
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Updated: June 7, 2024

Family and Medical Leave Act definition and meaning

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that entitles eligible employees to up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. Covered employers that offer health benefits must continue to maintain health coverage for their employees – under any group plan – as if they had not taken leave.


More about the Family and Medical Leave Act

For an employee to use FMLA they must first work for a covered employer. Generally, private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the law. Private employers with less than 50 employees are not covered by the FMLA, but could be required by state PFL requirements or medical leave laws.


Eligible employees are also entitled to twenty-six weeks per year of military caregiver leave to care for a spouse, parent, or child who is a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.


There are many examples of why an employee may need to use FMLA. It can include the birth or placement — through adoption or foster care — of a child, or to care for a spouse or parent with a serious health condition. FMLA also comes into play if an employee receives a diagnosis of a medical condition that renders them unable to perform their job.




Using Family Medical Leave Act in a sentence

“There are many women employed in the United States who are not legally protected by the Family Medical Leave Act.”

Terms related to: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Articles and resources related to: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)


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