Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Q&A

As a Seattle employment lawyer with over 30 years of experience handling labor issues, I have found that many employers totally disregard the rights of their employees when it comes to the laws of the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On that same token, many employees do not fully understand if and when they can take time off under the FMLA, because the laws are specific, yet complicated. The purpose of this article is to explain the most important aspects of the law, so employees are better able to exercise their rights in the workplace. Here are answers to some of the most common questions I get regarding FMLA.


Q. What is FMLA?

A. The Family & Medical Leave Act allows covered employees to take a 12 week paid break in a 12 month period for certain family or medical reasons. The act specifically says that FMLA may be used for the birth of a child, the adoption of a child, to care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition, and when the employee suffers a serious health condition.

Q. Which employees are allowed to take off time because of FMLA?

A. There are restrictions on who is eligible for FMLA based on amount of time worked with the company in the previous 12 months. An employee must have worked for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months leading up to the time they want to take their leave in order to get the benefits of FMLA. If there is some dispute between the employer and employee on whether or not this number was reached, the onus is on the employer to show a record of work hours.

Q. Does FMLA apply to employees in all companies?

A. No. In order for the Family & Medical Leave Act to apply, the company must employ 50 or more employees within 75 miles of where you work. All public agencies fall under the law however, even if they employ less than 50 people.

Q. What happens if I am on FMLA and the company I work for falls below 50 employees?

A. You are free to continue taking your leave of absence without any repercussions. Once the leave is granted, the employer cannot take it back because of changes in the number of employees.

Q. Will I still get my normal benefits if I take leave using the FMLA?

A. Yes. If you use the Family & Medical Leave Act, your employer must give you the normal benefits you are supposed to receive. The law also states that you have the right to maintain the position, pay and benefits once you return to work.

Q. My spouse and I work at the same company. Can we both get 12 weeks off for the birth of our child?

A. No. If you and your spouse work at the same company, you cannot both receive FMLA leave for the birth and care of your child.

If your employer is unjustly denying you FMLA, or is retaliating against you for taking it, then you should speak with an experienced Washington labor lawyer as soon as possible. You are guaranteed these rights under the law, and should seek legal advice if your employer is breaking the law. For more information on Washington employment issues, click the previous link, or give our office a call at 206-285-1743.