The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides job protection for workers who need time off for medical reasons. The law gives covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to treat a medical condition or care for a loved one with a serious medical condition. Not all workers are covered by FMLA. These employees must take other steps to ensure job protection while absent for medical reasons.


Not all employers must comply with the Family Medical Leave Act. To be eligible for job protection under FMLA, an employee must work for an employer that is covered by the law.FMLA applies to all public employers, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and private-sector employers with 50 or more workers, according to the Department of Labor. Employees who work for companies that do not fall into these categories do not receive job protection under FMLA.

Job Loss

If an employee is not covered under FMLA, she runs the risk of losing her job and benefits for taking an extended leave of absence. Employers not covered by the law do not have to maintain the worker's job or benefits while on leave nor is the employer required to make accommodations or concessions for the employee -- with one exception. Pregnancy qualifies as a temporary disability under the American's With Disability Act. Under the act, an employer must provide a pregnant woman with reasonable accommodations that allow her to perform her job optimally. The ADA does not offer job protection for extended leave of absence, however.


Workers who need time off for medical reasons and are not covered by FMLA can discuss alternatives with their employer. In most cases, employers understand that emergencies happen and events occur that are beyond the worker's control. An employer may grant additional time off to help the worker take care of the medical issue. Unpaid time off is at the sole discretion of the employer and is usually based on the needs of the business. If the worker has vacation or sick time available, he can use this time as an alternative if FMLA is not an option.


An employee can consider taking short-term or long-term disability if available through the employer. Employment and labor laws do not govern short-term and long-term disability so it is a matter between the employer and employee. Disability insurance is typically offered through a health benefit plan. It pays a percentage of the worker's earnings and provides job protection in case of serious injury or illness.