From the Hotline: Separate 12-Week FMLA Leaves

Question: Do multiple health or injury events constitute separate 12-week entitlements to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Answer: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations allow an employee a combined total of 12 weeks of protected leave during a 12-month eligibility period, regardless of the leave being for one leave of 12 weeks or multiple shorter leaves totaling 12 weeks. For example, if an employee uses 8 weeks of FMLA for pregnancy, and then has a personal injury within the 12-month eligibility period, the employee would be entitled to 4 weeks of FMLA for the personal injury.

It is important to clearly define the 12-month period that the company uses to determine the 12 weeks of FMLA entitlement. FMLA regulations allow for any one of the four following 12-month periods, but each employer must designate the method that they will use, and use that method consistently. Remember that an employee is entitled to 12 weeks each time the 12 month eligibility period begins again. The four methods are:

  1. The calendar year;
  2. Any fixed 12-month leave year, such as a fiscal year, a year required by state law, or a year starting on an employee’s anniversary date;
  3. The 12-month period measured forward from the date any employee’s first FMLA leave begins; or,
  4. A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave.