The Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that allows employees to take time off work for medical conditions and specific family concerns, includes rules and regulations for covered employers. To follow these federal guidelines, small-business owners need to familiarize themselves with the basic duties of an employer as they pertain to FMLA benefits.

Size and Location

Small businesses that employee 50 or more employees may be subject to FMLA regulations. FMLA rules specifically state the 50 or more employees must work within 75 miles of one another for the business to be required to abide by FMLA. For a business with multiple locations, distance plays a significant part. For example, suppose a small business operates at two locations that are 100 miles apart. One location has 20 workers; the other has 35. Although the company employs more than 50 workers in all, FMLA regulations would not define this business as a covered employer because of the distance between the two locations.

Employer Duties

For businesses subject to FMLA guidelines, employers may be required to complete paperwork for employee benefits and deal with health-care providers to confirm certification and request recertification. Employers are also responsible for permitting employees to return to work following an FMLA leave.

Work Schedules

After returning to work, an employee may be limited in the number of hours she can work in a scheduled period. If a medical condition prevents her from working overtime hours the business requires, an eligible employee can take FMLA leave for the additional hours. The employer is expected to schedule overtime without bias toward employees who need FMLA leave and cannot force an employee to work the extended hours if her medical condition is covered.

Employer Requests

During an FMLA leave of absence, the employer can ask health-care providers for recertification if the employee has been off work for more days than was originally certified. If an employee must take an extended leave, the employer has a right to ask for recertification at six-month intervals. The employer can also require the employee to use accrued paid leave, such as sick days and vacation time, while he's off work.


Nonprofit organizations, including those with a religious affiliation, can be required to abide by FMLA guidelines if they engage in activity that affects commerce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Standards Administration. Previous court rulings have stated that religious organizations with more than 15 employees would be likely to affect commerce in some form. Thus, those that have 50 or more workers for FMLA purposes generally must follow FMLA regulations. Exemptions have only been granted to organizations through the courts.