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Understanding the Different Types of FMLA Leave


The Family and Medical Leave Act requires all government agencies, elementary and secondary schools, and organizations with 50 or more employees to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers who have accrued 12 months of full-time service. With limited exceptions, an employer must grant FMLA leave for the following reasons:

  • To allow a parent to care for a newborn,
  • To allow an adoptive parent to bond with a new son or daughter,
  • To care for a family member who has a serious health problem, and
  • To attend to or recover from a personal health problem.

Managers and supervisors are supposed to work with employees to make FMLA leave available in ways that do not disrupt business operations. Additionally, organizations must allow individuals who takes FMLA leave to return to their jobs without any demotion or reduction in pay. If a reassignment is needed for medical reasons, then the employee should not lose money, seniority, or benefits.

Employers and employees often have questions about how FMLA can be taken, so Coffman Legal has prepared this basic introduction. If you would like more detailed information, or if you believe your employer has violated your FMLA rights, you can call our Ohio FMLA attorneys at (614) 949-1181 or request a consultation by filling out this online contact form.

Following are some Different Types of FMLA Leave

Taking Continuous FMLA Leave

The federal rules and regulations for implementing FMLA assume that new parents will take the full 12 weeks of available unpaid leave after a birth or adoption. The complete allotment of FMLA is also available for any other listed purpose, but employers are not allowed to force employees to use all their unpaid leave at once.

To the extent possible, an employee should notify their manager and supervisor of their intent to spend as long as three months off work. Employees should also coordinate with co-workers to ensure all their essential job duties are met during the time they are on FMLA leave.

When the need for continuous FMLA leave cannot be predicted, such after a car crash or a sudden health crisis, an employer is allowed to request medical documentation. In this way, FMLA leave is like sick leave.

Extended Leave Under the FMLA

As noted, companies and agencies cannot compel a worker to use every day of his or her available FMLA in a single chunk. An employee can request several days or a couple of weeks off for any of the reasons listed above. When people do this, they should keep close track of their unpaid time off and stay in touch with their human resources or payroll rep to ensure that all work and leave time is properly accounted.

Taking Intermittent FMLA Leave

Federal guidance makes it clear that an employer must allow employees to use FMLA leave in the smallest increments that they allow employees to take paid time off. So, if a company lets workers use PTO in increments of single hours, the company must also allow workers to use FMLA one hour at a time.

More than other types of FMLA leave, though, employees and employers should treat intermittent FMLA leave as planned time off. The worker should arrange ahead of time to have their duties covered, and the employer should request all necessary documentation in advance of the employee taking time off.

A final consideration with intermittent FMLA is that federal regulations discourage using it to care for a newborn or to bond with an adopted child. Any use of intermittent FMLA leave for parenting purposes must be explicitly preapproved by the employer. Intermittent FMLA Leave VS Continuous FMLA Leave

Using FMLA Leave to Care for a Military Spouse, Parent, or Relative

An amendment to the original FMLA makes up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave available to a family member who cares for an injured or ill member of the U.S. military. The service member can be on active duty or someone who was discharged for health reasons. The family member can be anyone related by marriage, birth, or blood. An individual designated as the service member’s or veteran’s next of kin can also qualify for this type of FMLA leave.


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