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How to apply for FMLA leave

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), covered employers are required to provide unpaid medical leave for eligible employees in certain situations.  Here’s what you need to know about how to apply for FMLA leave:

When should I apply for FMLA leave?

Submit your leave request to your employer at least 30 days in advance.  If unexpected or emergency circumstances prevent you from asking for leave 30 days in advance, submit your request as soon as possible.  Requesting leave early will enable you and your employer to make arrangements for your leave and obtain any additional medical documentation.

How do I request FMLA leave?

It is essential to follow your employer’s policy for requesting leave.  For example, if your employer’s policy requires you to submit leave requests to your first-line supervisor and human resources, follow the rule.  If your employer has a certain form for leave requests, use the form.  And it’s always a good idea to request leave in writing, instead of over the phone or in-person so that you have proof of your request.

You should indicate that you are requesting FMLA leave and provide enough information to show that you qualify for FMLA leave.  For example, tell your employer that you’re requesting leave because of your own serious medical condition, a family member’s serious medical condition, or to care for a newborn child.  At a minimum, you should include the following information:

  • How much leave you need
  • The start and end dates of your requested leave
  • Whether you’re requesting continuous or intermittent leave
  • Your leave schedule (part-time or full-time, for certain dates or as needed)

Providing medical documentation

Your employer may require you to provide supporting documentation from a health care provider.  Your employer may provide a form for your doctor to complete.  In other cases, it may be sufficient to provide a note from your doctor confirming the reason, dates, duration, and nature of your leave request.

Depending on the reason and duration of your leave request, your employer may have the right to ask for follow-up documentation.

Can an attorney help me get FMLA?

You don’t need an attorney to apply for FMLA.  However, it may be helpful to consult an experienced employment attorney if you believe your employer unlawfully denied your leave request or retaliated against you for asking for FMLA leave.  A lawyer can determine whether you work for a covered employer, if you are an eligible employee, and if your employer broke the law.  An attorney can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and recommend a course of action.

If your employer violated your FMLA rights, Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C., can help.  Our attorneys represent federal government employees around the world, as well as private-sector and state and local government employees in Washington, DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia.  We provide experienced legal representation in FMLA cases and other employment-related matters.


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