5 Key Effects of FMLA on Employers

FMLA Effects

With more than 80% of all U.S. workers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993[1] (FMLA), the benefits and protections to employees are important and clear. In fact, since the inception of the law, the FMLA has been used more than 100 million times[2].  Given the pervasive use of the FMLA, employers must have a firm grasp on the implications of the law for their business operations. Five key areas are worth noting:

1. Covered Employees

All federal, state and local government agencies, no matter the number of employees are covered by the FMLA. Compliance for private employers applies only if the company has 50 or more employees working for a minimum of 20 weeks during the current or preceding year; the private sector employee must have worked for the company for at least 12 months and accrued a minimum of 1,250 working hours during the 12-month period.

2. Employees Notice to Employers

If an FMLA leave is ‘foreseeable’, an employee must provide their employer with 30 days’ notice. If the circumstances of the FMLA leave change or occur unexpectedly, the employee must provide notice as soon as ‘practical and possible’. Employers may also require employees requesting FMLA to comply with the companies usual and customary policy for requesting leave.

3. Qualifying Reasons for Leave

A number or reasons are covered under the FMLA statute for which up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period are allowed:

  • Birth, adoption or placement of a foster child
  • Care for a spouse, son, daughter or parent with a serious health condition
  • Serious health condition of the employee
  • Circumstances that arise because of active military duty or deployment of the employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent
  • Care related to a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin who is a member of the armed forces who sustained a serious illness or injury. In this case, FMLA leave can be extended up to 26 weeks.

Employers can require certification from a health care professional that the medical condition is, in fact, serious.

4. Military Family Leave

In addition to applications for the employee in the workplace, the FMLA affords leave options for employees called to support qualifying family members’ deployment. This aspect of the FMLA, known as military family leave, allows eligible employees of covered employers to assist when a spouse, son, daughter or parent in the armed forces is in a foreign deployment or to care for a service member with a serious injury or illness if the employee is the service member’s spouse, child, parent of next of kin.

5. Restoration of Employment

Upon return from an FMLA leave, the employee must be restored to the same job as they held before the leave or an equivalent job. An equivalent job mean a position that is virtually identical to the employee’s original job with regard to pay, benefits and other conditions of employment such a shift time and location. There is no guarantee of returning to the actual job the employee held before the leave. Employees on FMLA leave are not protected from situations that would have arisen were they not on leave such as overtime reductions, shift elimination or layoff.

Key employees of an employer may also be denied restoration if their absence would cause significant economic injury to the company. A key employee is defined as a salaried FMLA-eligible person who is among the highest paid 10% of all FMLA eligible and non-eligible employees within 75 miles of the workplace.

Be sure to know the law and your company’s standing.


[1] Fundamental of Human Resource Management, John Wiley & Sons 12th edition 2016

[2]The Employers Guide to The Family and Medical Leave Act. Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor