Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, most employers with 50 or more employees must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Provisions of the 2008 and 2010 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs) altered the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to assist family members who need to take unpaid leave to care for a servicemember or veteran with a “serious injury or illness.” The law allows spouses, children, parents, and other next-of-kin who provide such care to take as many as 26 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.

In separate FMLA provisions, “qualifying exigencies” can entitle the spouse, child, or parent of certain servicemembers to up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. These provisions apply to the specified family members of servicemembers on or notified of an impending call to “covered active duty.” Covered active duty includes servicemembers in the regular Armed Forces who are deployed to a foreign country and servicemembers in the reserve Armed Forces who are called to federal active duty for a deployment to a foreign country. Qualifying exigencies associated with the servicemember’s covered active duty may involve short-notice deployment, military events, childcare/school arrangements, financial/legal arrangements, counseling, rest and recuperation, post-deployment activities, and other related activities as agreed upon between the employer and employee.

Employees and other persons may file complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration (usually through the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division). The Department of Labor may file suit to ensure compliance and recover damages if a complaint cannot be resolved administratively.

Employees also have private rights of action, without involvement of the Department of Labor, to correct violations and recover damages through the courts. For more information, call the Wage-Hour toll-free help line at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487- 9243), or visit the FMLA website at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla.