Ask a JAG

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Q: Is “Family & Medical” Leave available only to pregnant women?

 A: No. The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles most public sector employees (and some private) up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for a variety of reasons. While the law works to ensure equal employment opportunities for new and expecting mothers, its ultimate purpose is to help both male and female employees balance their work and family responsibilities. 

The reasons for which an employee may take FMLA leave are as follows: birth and care of a newborn (including time off due to pregnancy complications); placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care; care of a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; or when the employee is unable to work due to his or her own medical condition.

Additionally, there are two military-specific leaves available. The first is “Qualifying Exigency Leave,” which may be taken to meet urgent demands arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on active duty or is a National Guardsman or reservist called to active duty in support of a contingency operation.

 It is designed to permit family members to take leave to address the most common issues that arise due to a deployment, such as coordinating alternative child care and making financial and legal arrangements. The second type is “Military Caregiver Leave.” Under this provision, an employee may take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for a next-of-kin service member with a serious injury or illness.

In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must (1) have worked for the covered employer for at least 12 months, (2) have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave, and (3) work at a location where 50 or more employees work at that location or within 75 miles of it.

An employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled to maintain health care coverage and may elect to pay the premiums either on a current basis or upon their return to work. Once the leave ends, the employee must be restored to the same position previously held, or another with equivalent pay, benefits, status and conditions. For more information on eligibility and benefits, check out the Department of Labor’s FAQ sheets online.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.