Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave

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Generally, leave under the FMLA falls into one of the following three broad categories:

1. Leave related to birth, adoption and foster care, which includes:

(a) leave taken for pregnancy, birth, and to be with the healthy newborn child; and

(b) leave taken for the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, and to care for the child after placement.

2. Leave for a serious health condition of the employee or an immediate family member that includes:

(a) leave taken to care for spouse, son, daughter or parent with serious health condition; and

(b) leave taken for the employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s job.

3. Military-related leave, which includes:

(a) qualifying exigency leave, taken for a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call to covered active duty; and

(b) military caregiver leave, taken by an employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin  of a covered servicemember to care for the servicemember who has incurred a serious injury or illness in the line of duty on active duty.[1]

The following general definitions apply for all types of FMLA leave:

Spouse” means a husband or wife as defined or recognized under state law.[2]  Tennessee does not recognize common law marriages within this state, but Tennessee courts will recognize a common law marriage contracted in a state where common law marriages are valid.[3]  Therefore, “spouse” includes legally married husbands and wives, and persons who are married under the common law of a state that allows common-law marriages.

Parent” includes biological, adoptive, step or foster parents and persons who stood “in loco parentis” (see definition below) to the employee when the employee was a child. It does not include parents “in law.”[4]

Son/Daughter” includes biological, adopted, and foster children, stepchildren, legal wards, and children of a person standing “in loco parentis”; it includes all children under 18, but does not include children who are over 18 unless they are incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. For military-related leave, the son or daughter can be of any age.[5]

In Loco Parentis” includes persons with day-to-day responsibilities for the care and financial support of a child, regardless of the existence of any biological or legal relationship.[6]

Additional definitions for military-related FMLA leave are covered in the section on military-related leave.

[1] 29 C.F.R. § 825.112

[2]29 C.F.R. § 825.122.

[3] See, e.g., Troxel v. Jones, 322 S.W.2d 251 (1958). 

[4]29 C.F.R. § 825.122.

[5]29 C.F.R. § 825.122.

[6]29 C.F.R. § 825.122.