Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), entitles most Federal employees to a total of up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the following purposes:

  • the birth of a son or daughter and the care of such son or daughter
  • the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care
  • the care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition; or
  • a serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her position
  • any qualifying exigency arising from out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or a parent of the employee is on covered active duty, or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty in the Armed Forces.

Note that any holiday may not be counted toward the aforementioned 12 workweeks.

The following individuals are considered family members:

  1. Spouse, and their parents;
  2. Sons and daughters and their spouses ;
  3. Parent, and their spouses
  4. Brothers and sisters and their spouses
  5. Grandparents and grandchildren and their spouses
  6. Domestic partner and parents thereof, including domestic partners of any individual in 2 through 5 of this definition; and
  7. Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

Twelve (12) administrative workweeks are available for full-time employees, and the amount of time available to part-time employees is directly proportional to the number of hours in the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek. The 12 workweeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA are in addition to any accrued or accumulated annual leave, sick leave, other paid leave, or compensatory time off available to employees.

An employee must invoke their entitlement to FMLA leave and normally may not invoke the entitlement retroactively. If foreseeable, an employee must provide notice of their intent to invoke entitlement to FMLA not less than 30 days before the leave is to begin, or in emergencies, as soon as practical. For example, if the need for leave is not foreseeable (e.g., a medical emergency) and the employee cannot provide 30 calendar days notice, the employee must provide notice within a reasonable period of time. If necessary, notice may be given by an employee's personal representative (e.g., a family member or other responsible party). If the need for leave is not foreseeable and the employee is unable, due to circumstances beyond his or her control, to provide notice of his or her need for leave, the leave may not be delayed or denied. If the employee or the employee's personal representative is physically or mentally incapable of invoking the entitlement during the entire period of absence from work for an FMLA-qualifying purpose, the employee may retroactively invoke entitlement within 2 workdays after returning to work (See 5 CFR 630.1203(b) for additional information).

Employees may elect to substitute annual, sick leave or any other appropriate leave for any unpaid leave under FMLA. If employees are substituting sick leave in place of unpaid leave, the sick leave usage must fall within the sick leave provisions as addressed under 5 CFR 630.401 (granting sick leave). Certain conditions may allow employees to use the 12 weeks of FMLA intermittently (See 5 CFR 630.1205(b)). The 12-month period referred to above begins on the date an employee first takes FMLA leave and continues for 12 months. An employee is not entitled to 12 additional workweeks of unpaid leave until the previous 12-month period ends and an event or situation occurs that entitles the employee to another period of FMLA leave. (This may include a continuation of a previous event or situation).

Certification: An employee's request for FMLA leave to care for a sick family member, or for the employee's own serious health condition, may be supported by medical certification issued by a health care provider of the employee or the employee's ill family member. Where an activity requires medical certification, employees are required to provide medical certification of a serious health condition no later than 15 calendar days after the date requested. If employees are unable to provide requested medical documentation and they have made good faith efforts to comply, medical documentation must be provided as soon as practicable under the circumstances involved, but no later than 30 days after the date requested. Written certification should, at a minimum, include:

  1. The date the serious health condition commenced; and
  2. The probable duration of the serious health condition or specify that the serious health condition is a chronic or continuing condition with an unknown duration and whether the patient is presently incapacitated and the likely duration and frequency of episodes of incapacity. At its own expense, an organization may require subsequent medical recertification on a periodic basis, but no more than once every 30 calendar days, for leave taken for purposes relating to pregnancy, chronic conditions, or long-term conditions. (See 5 CFR 630.1208(j) for additional information).

An employee may not be placed on family and medical leave or have leave subtracted from their FMLA entitlement unless confirmation is obtained by management of the employee's intent to invoke FMLA leave (5 CFR 630.1203(h)). Employees serving under intermittent appointments or temporary appointments with a time limitation of 1 year or less; and any other individuals excluded under 5 CFR 630.1201(b) are not entitled to leave under the FMLA.

Content last reviewed: 09/09/2014 - SZ