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Researching FMLA: More Family and Medical Leave Act Questions Answered

Human Resources

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of certain larger, covered businesses to receive unpaid, job-protected time off from work to address serious health conditions (their own or a qualified family member's), or for the birth or placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. Previously, we provided answers to several frequently asked questions about the FMLA. Here are answers to more commonly asked questions from employers and employees.

Does the FMLA Cover In-Laws?

While the FMLA enables eligible employees to take unpaid time off to care for children, spouses or parents with a serious health condition, the Act does not include a similar provision for the care of an in-law. An exception, may apply where the individual previously stood "in loco parentis" for the employee when he or she was under-age. This term is defined "as having had the responsibility of providing day-to-day care to the employee" and providing financial support during his or her childhood.

How Does the FMLA Address Same-Sex Marriages?

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor formally announced that employees in legal, same-sex marriages have the same rights and privileges as those in opposite-sex marriages to job-protected leave provisions under the FMLA. Employers must be vigilant in ensuring leave policies recognize   legal same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. For example, if you don't require an employee in an opposite-sex marriage to provide a marriage certificate for documentation of their marriage, you should not request documentation of the marriage from an employee in a same-sex marriage. (It's also important to note a civil union or registered domestic partnership is not considered a legal marriage.)

Is Paternity Leave a Qualifying Reason for Leave Under the FMLA?

A business covered by the FMLA is required to allow eligible employees (male and female) to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth, or the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of such placement.

Does FMLA Leave Need to be Taken in Minimum Blocks of Time?

According to a Department of Labor fact sheet, FMLA leave can be taken in weeks, single days, hours, or in some cases, even less than an hour. The employer is required to allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave "in the smallest increment of time the employer allows for the use of other forms of leave, as long as it is no more than one hour." An important point to note is that "the amount of leave actually taken may be counted against an employee's FMLA leave entitlement."

Do Holidays Count as FMLA Time?

If a recognized company holiday should fall during a week in which an employee is taking a full week of leave, the entire week counts as FMLA leave. But if the holiday takes place in a week when the employee takes less than the full week of approved leave, the holiday is not considered part of that leave.

Is FMLA Leave Affected by Individual State Laws?

Several states and local jurisdictions have established laws regarding time off for family and medical reasons. Employees are entitled to all the benefits under federal, state and local law for which they are eligible. Where the FMLA may conflict with an applicable state or local law the employee would be entitled to the most beneficial provisions of each law.

To ensure compliance and to avoid potential litigation, businesses should thoroughly familiarize themselves with all of the requirements and conditions specified in the Family and Medical Leave Act.


For more answers about FMLA, please read The Family and Medical Leave Act: Your Questions Answered.


This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.
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