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The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that protects your job when you take time off to recover from an illness or injury, to care for a new baby or to care for a child, spouse or parent who is sick or injured. If you are struggling with these health issues, you may be eligible for this unpaid leave program.

Read on to learn more about how to qualify for FMLA leave.

Covered employers

You must work for a covered employer to take leave under FMLA. A covered employer is:

  • The local, state or federal government
  • A public primary or secondary school
  • A private employer with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work location

Work history

If you work for a covered employer, you must have an employment history with that company of at least 12 months, although this does not necessarily need to be 12 consecutive months as long as the break was less than seven years. In addition, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to your leave, an average of about 24 hours each week.

Qualifying health conditions

FMLA only protects your job in these circumstances when you or a family member has a serious health condition. The most common reasons for FMLA include:

  • Chronic conditions that require treatment for incapacitating illness at least twice a year
  • Acute health conditions that last more than three days and require ongoing medical treatment
  • Acute or chronic conditions resulting in an overnight hospital stay
  • Pregnancy and recovery from birth
  • Caring for a child whom you have recently adopted or received as a foster care placement
  • Certain military deployments

If you believe you qualify for FMLA and your employer denies your request, you have legal recourse. You can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor. Your company may not retaliate against you for this type of report.