Siblings and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Common Questions

Since our announcement last summer about the Department of Labor’s inclusion of siblings in Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) coverage, we’ve had several questions from siblings. This post addresses many of those questions. However, the best source of information is always directly from the Department of Labor.

In Loco Parentis

The most common question regards the two different ways that in loco parentis applies under FMLA. In loco parentis is Latin for “in the place of a parent.” The law does not list siblings as covered family members. However, the Department of Labor has interpreted “parents” under the law to include those acting in the place of a parent – in loco parentis.

There are two ways that people are covered in loco parentis

  1. You – the employee – are providing care to someone who acted in loco parentis for you when you were a child. Your eligibility is based on the fact that this person acted “in the place of a parent” in the past.
  2. You – the employee – are providing in loco parentis In this case, your eligibility is based on the fact that you are acting “in the place of a parent” right now.

Employers often confuse these two versions of in loco parentis. Some have told siblings that they are only eligible if they provided care for their siblings when they were younger. This is a common misconception that confuses the two versions of in loco parentis.

Is Your Employer Required to Inform You of Your Eligibility Under the FMLA?

According to the Department of Labor, employers are required to post information about FMLA eligibility and inform employees of their ability to take leave. That information is available on this Department of Labor page under “Employer Notice”

Why Do FMLA Fact Sheets Refer to Children? Are there Age Restrictions?

The FMLA fact sheets frequently refer to children or “son or daughter” as eligible care recipients. Under FMLA, that definition of “son or daughter” includes people over age 18 who are “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability” (Fact Sheet 28B). This means that adults with disabilities are eligible care recipients under the FMLA, regardless of age.

Where Can I Find More Information?

The best place for information about FMLA is always the Department of Labor. The Wage and Hour Division website lists information on the FMLA and all of the fact sheets regarding FMLA. If you have remaining questions or concerns, call 1-866-487-9243 or visit www.wagehour.dol.gov to be directed to the nearest Wage & Hour Division office for assistance.