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Caregiving and job protections, part 2: employee eligibility

In the first part of this post, we began discussing protections available under federal law for employees to take unpaid time off upon the birth of a child or to care for a family member.

As we noted, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) generally applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees, as well as public-sector workers.

In this part of the post, let’s look at which employees are eligible for FMLA protections.

Eligibility is an issue because in order to benefit from FMLA protections, employees must not merely work for an employer covered by the FMLA. They must also meet certain criteria.

One of these criteria is duration of employment. To be eligible for the FMLA, an employee must have worked for a minimum of 12 months for a given employer.

The 12 months, however, are generally not required to be consecutive. In other words, a break in service with the employer is not necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to the FMLA.

To be sure, if the break in service was seven years or more, that is a different story. When the break in service is that long, the time prior to the break usually isn’t counted for FMLA purposes.

There are two exceptions to this, though. One is military service. The other is when there is a collective bargaining agreement in place that expresses an intention to rehire after a break in service.

What about part-time workers? Are they covered by the FMLA?

The FMLA addresses this by specifying how many hours an employee must have worked in the 12-month period preceding a leave. That amount is 1,250 hours.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “Fact Sheet #28: The Family and Medical Leave Act,” Accessed March 12, 2014

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