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Is an employee entitled to more than 12 weeks of FMLA leave if there are multiple qualifying reasons?

No. Except in the case of leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, an eligible employee’s Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave entitlement is limited to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during the 12-month period designated in the employer policy even if the employee has multiple qualifying reasons.

FMLA regulation §825.200(b) provides employers with the following options to define the 12-month period:

  • The calendar year.
  • 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.
  • The 12-month period measured forward from the date any employee’s first FMLA leave begins.
  • A “rolling” 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave.

If an employer chooses to use the first two options, an employee could possibly stack leave, that is, use more than 12 consecutive weeks of FMLA leave for one qualifying reason or for multiple reasons. For example, when a calendar year is used, an employee could be on FMLA leave the last 12 weeks of one year and the first 12 weeks of the next year. For this reason and for ease of calculation, most employers use the 12-month period measured backward from the date an employee uses any FMLA leave. Under this method, an employee is truly limited to using only 12 weeks of the leave within any 12-month period.

Using the rolling-year-backward method, even with different qualifying reasons, an employee is limited to 12 weeks. For example, an employee returns January 1, 2020, from 12 weeks of FMLA childbirth leave, which began on October 1, 2019, and within a week after returning to work, the same employee requests three weeks of FMLA leave to care for her father with a serious health condition. The employee would not be eligible for FMLA leave because she already used 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period using the rolling-year-backward method. She would be eligible for more FMLA leave beginning October 1, 2020.
As stated in FMLA regulation §825.127, an eligible employee may use a combined total of 26 weeks to care for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury. In addition, state family and medical laws, an employer policy or the terms of a collective bargaining agreement may provide non-FMLA medical leave in addition to the 12 weeks required under FMLA.


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