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MY BOSS SAYS . . . I haven't worked long enough to get FMLA leave. What are the rules?

Sometimes a serious health condition comes up and employees need to take off from work to deal with their own condition or that of a parent, spouse, or child. The Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") was enacted to protect employees in this situation. Under the FMLA, employers must provide 12 unpaid weeks of leave per year to qualified employees. While an employee is taking that leave, the employer must protect the employee's job and must continue his or her health insurance. But certain rules apply - not every employee is protected by the FMLA.

In order to take FMLA leave, you must work for a covered employer. In general, private employers with at least 50 employees are covered by the law. Smaller private employers are not covered by the FMLA.

Even if you work for a covered employer, you still have to meet other requirements to be eligible for FMLA leave. First, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months. You do not have to have worked for 12 months in a row so seasonal work counts.

Second, you must have worked for the employer for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before you take leave. That works out to an average of about 24 hours per week over the course of a year.

Third, you must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite. So even if your employer has more than 50 employees, if they are spread out and there are not 50 employees within 75 miles of where you work, you will not be eligible to take FMLA leave.

So, if your employer is covered by the FMLA, you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months, you have worked at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months, and your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your jobsite, you are most likely eligible for FMLA leave. If you believe you have been inappropriately denied FMLA leave or retaliated against for taking it, you should speak with an experienced employment law attorney.

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