Updated: 3/23/2021

What Is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Generally, FMLA is a federal law that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. FMLA may also be used to care for eligible family members with disabilities or serious health conditions. FMLA provides for up to 26 weeks while caring for a qualified seriously injured or ill service member. Special rules, described below, regarding eligibility for and the duration of FMLA leave apply to pilots.

ALPA Guidance

Check with your pilot benefits book, collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or company for information about FMLA.A pilot will be eligible for FMLA leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act if he/she: 

  1. Has a minimum of 12 months of service;
  2. Has a FMLA qualifying event under CBA;
  3. Requests the leave 30 days in advance, if practicable, or otherwise as soon as practicable; and
  4. During the 12-month period preceding the leave:
    1. Has worked or been paid for not less than 60 percent of the applicable monthly guarantee, and
    2. Has worked or been paid for not less than 504 hours.

FMLA-qualifying events include:

  1. Birth of a child and to care for the child.
  2. Placement of child with the pilot for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child.
  3. For your own serious health condition that renders you unable to perform the functions of your job.
  4. To care for your spouse, child under the age of 18 (or over the age of 18 if incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability), or a parent with a serious health condition.
  5. Qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a covered family member who is a member of a regular component of the Armed Forces is deployed to a foreign country.
  6. Qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a covered family member who is a member of the National Guard or Reserves is deployed to a foreign country under a call or order to active duty.
  7. To care for a covered family member who received a serious injury or illness in the line of duty while on active duty in the Armed Forces.

The maximum duration of a FMLA leave is:

  1. Up to 72 days of leave during any 12-month period, based on a uniform 6-day workweek, for FMLA-qualifying events 1-6 above.
  2. Up to 156 days of military caregiver leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, under FMLA-qualifying event #7 above.

Benefits While on FMLA

While on FMLA leave, a pilot will be eligible for benefits as follows:

  1. Medical, dental, and vision benefits, by the timely payment of premium(s) equal to the premium(s) paid by a pilot in active payroll status, for the option(s) the pilot is enrolled in. 
  2. Continuation of benefits other than group health benefits, as determined by the employer’s established policy for providing such benefits when the pilot is on other forms of leave, whether paid or unpaid, as appropriate, or as provided by the CBA.

Pay While on FMLA

FMLA leave is unpaid leave, unless you are eligible for other paid leave or benefits (e.g., vacation, sick leave, disability benefits). Generally, a pilot may choose to substitute accrued paid leave for unpaid FMLA leave, or the employer may require such substitution, subject to CBA provisions. The use of paid leave under circumstances which do not qualify as FMLA leave, such as paid sick leave for a medical condition that is not a serious health condition, does not count against FMLA leave entitlement.

How to Use FMLA

You should request FMLA 30 days in advance of the leave, or as soon as able, by completing FMLA request form(s). Check with your employer for the appropriate forms.



External Resources

The Department of Labor website has useful information on FMLA. Start with these: