The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

Employers are often covered by federal employment laws that provide certain protections for employees. One of the laws that exist that is applicable to many employers is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The FMLA is designed to provide certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.  Essentially this means that an employee who is covered by the FMLA can take up to 12 weeks of leave, that is unpaid, with an assurance that their job will be open and remaining for them when they return.

The FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

The FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and private employer companies with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. When applicable, employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • for the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • for placement with the employee of a child 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.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, 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. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work.

Time taken off work due to pregnancy complications can be counted against the 12 weeks of family and medical leave.  Time taken off does not have to be continuous, but can be sporadic throughout the year.

If you are an employer or an employee and you have questions about whether the FMLA applies to you, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Employment Law attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at  We will answer your Idaho Employment Law questions and will help you solve your Idaho Employment Law problems.


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