HR Operations

FMLA-covered situations

Last updated: September 22, 2023

This page applies to all staff, academic personnel, and student employees.

FMLA coverage is based on specific reasons. For further information, choose the situation below that applies to your circumstances.

You may take job-protected FMLA leave to care for a family member’s, or your own, serious health condition. Review the definitions of “serious health condition” and “family member” to see if your situation is covered by FMLA.

Definition of serious health condition

The table below outlines health issues that qualify as a serious health condition.

Absence is due to… More specifically… Examples
Inpatient care
  • Overnight hospital stay
  • Treatment following inpatient care
  • Incapacity from a condition that requires inpatient care
  • Recovery from a condition that required inpatient care
  • Post-surgery exam
  • Post-surgery recovery
Medical treatment

(more than three consecutive, full calendar days)

  • Condition requiring two or more treatments by a health-care provider
  • Condition requiring one or more treatments followed by a regimen of continuing treatment supervised by a health-care provider
  • Health-care provider examinations to evaluate a condition
  • Health-care provider exam plus a course of treatment such as antibiotics or physical therapy
A chronic or long-term condition
  • Periodic treatments (at least twice per year) over a period of time for a condition that may cause episodic incapacity
  • Incapacity due to a condition that is not curable but which requires medical supervision
  • Treatments for post-injury restorative surgery
  • Condition that if left untreated could lead to incapacity of more than three days
  • Treatment for a chronic condition
  • Health-care provider appointment for asthma, diabetes, epilepsy
  • Absence due to Alzheimer’s, severe stroke, terminal illness
  • Cancer treatments, kidney dialysis
  • Incapacity due to pregnancy
  • Prenatal care
  • Morning sickness
  • Prenatal visits
  • Bed rest

Normally, conditions such as the following are not considered FMLA-qualifying serious health conditions:

  • Common cold
  • Flu
  • Earaches
  • Upset stomach or minor ulcers
  • Headaches other than migraines
  • Routine dental or orthodontia problems
  • Periodontal diseases

However, if a common condition, such as one of those listed above, escalates to meet the definition of a serious health condition, then FMLA may apply.

Definition of family member


  • Spouse
  • Same or opposite sex domestic partner
  • Child (biological, adopted, foster)*
  • Parent
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sister
  • Brother

Your spouse’s or domestic partner’s:

  • Child (biological, adopted, foster)*
  • Parent
  • Grandparent

Any of the above family members who are “step” or “half.”

*In certain circumstances, the definition of “child” extends to children who are 18 years or older but incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. If this describes your family member with a serious health condition, speak to your leave specialist for more information about FMLA for this reason.

In loco parentis

An individual who stands “in loco parentis” for a child qualifies as a parent under FMLA. “In loco parentis” refers to an adult who acted as a child’s parent (such as providing day-to-day care or financial support) even if the individual has no legal or biological relationship to the child. This term applies to you if you act in loco parentis for a child now or if you need time off or a leave of absence to care for someone who acted in loco parentis for you when you were a child.

Family Care Act

If you do not qualify for FMLA coverage and need to care for a family member, you may qualify for time off under the Washington Family Care Act.

You may take job-protected FMLA leave to care for a newborn or a newly placed adopted or foster child. The University provides additional leave under our parental leave policy.

If you qualify for FMLA, up to the first 12 weeks of a leave of absence following the birth, adoption, or placement of your child may be designated as FMLA.

If you are not eligible for FMLA coverage or have already used your 12 weeks of FMLA, you can still take parental leave.

You may take a combined total of 26 weeks in a single 12-month period when the time off or leave of absence involves caring for a covered service member who is seriously ill or injured. Unlike other types of FMLA-covered leave, this 12-month period is calculated starting from your first day of absence and ending 12 months later.

To take military caregiver leave, your family member must be a covered service member with a serious illness or injury as defined below. With this type of leave, the definition of family extends also to the military member’s next of kin. The FMLA defines “next of kin” specifically, so speak to your leave specialist if you do not meet the FMLA family member definition and may qualify as a service member’s next of kin.

If you take FMLA for other qualifying reasons in the same 12-month period, that time counts toward the 26 weeks. For example, if you take seven weeks for your own serious health condition, you would have up to 19 weeks left to care a covered service member.

Definition of covered service member

A “covered service member” is either of the following:

  • A current member or veteran of the armed forces (including the National Guard or Reserves) who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy; is otherwise in outpatient status; or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list
  • A veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy and who was a member of the armed forces (including the National Guard or Reserves) within the five-year period prior to the first day of your military caregiver leave
Definition of serious injury or illness for a current service member

A current service member’s serious injury or illness is one that:

  • Was incurred in the line of duty and that may make the service member medically unfit to perform the duties of their office, grade, rank, or rating


  • Existed before active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty
Definition of serious injury or illness for a veteran

A veteran’s serious injury or illness is one that:


  • Was incurred in the line of duty while on active duty in the armed forces


  • Existed before the veteran’s active duty and was aggravated by service in the line of duty


  • A continuation of a serious injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during the veteran’s active duty and rendered the veteran unable to perform the duties of the veteran’s office, grade, rank, or rating


  • A physical or mental condition for which the veteran has received a Department of Veterans Affairs Service-Related Disability Rating (VASRD) of 50 percent or greater (the rating may be based on multiple conditions)


  • A physical or mental condition that substantially impairs the veteran’s ability to work because of a disability or disabilities related to military service — or would substantially impair the veteran if there was no treatment


  • An injury that is the basis for the veteran’s enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers
If both spouses work for UW

If both you and your spouse work for the University, together you may take up to 26 weeks combined (not 26 weeks each) for time off or a leave of absence related to an ill or injured military family member and a family member’s military deployment.

If you have a family member in the armed forces who is on active duty or called to active duty status and is being or has been deployed to a foreign country, you may use FMLA to participate in certain activities related to their deployment.

Covered activities — also known as qualifying exigencies — may include:

  • Addressing any issues arising from a military member’s short-notice deployment (within seven days)
  • Attending military events or sponsored family support programs
  • Arranging alternative child care or school attendance of military member’s children
  • Attending child care or school meetings related to the military member’s deployment
  • Caring for the military member’s child on a nonroutine, urgent, immediate need basis when caused by the call to duty
  • Making or updating financial and legal arrangements related to the military member’s absence
  • Representing the military member in obtaining, arranging, or appealing military service benefits
  • Counseling (not provided by a health-care provider) for yourself, the military member, or the military member’s child when the need is related to the covered active duty
  • Spending time with the military member who is on temporary rest and recuperation leave (up to 15 days)
  • Attending post-deployment activities (up to 90 days after termination of active duty)
  • Addressing certain activities related to the care of the military member’s parent who is incapable of self-care
  • Attending any other event that the University and you agree is a qualifying activity
If you don’t qualify for FMLA

Even if you don’t qualify for FMLA leave, you may be able to take up to 15 days of job-protected time off under the Washington Military Family Act.

*If your situation is not one of the circumstances listed above, then it is not covered by FMLA. Speak with your supervisor or leave specialist to discuss other possible leave options.