Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Acts, both the federal FMLA and the District of Columbia (DC) FMLA, provide unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees who need leave due to certain family and medical situations. FMLA leave can be requested to cover a continuous period of time, intermittently (PDF) or on a reduced work schedule. Paid time off can be used during FMLA to retain paid status. 

Review the Time Off and Leave Guide for details about FMLA, including eligibility, coordination with paid time off, employee rights and responsibilities and more.


To qualify for family or medical leave, you must meet certain conditions:

  • You must be a GW employee, as defined by federal and/or DC FMLA.
  • You must have worked at the university for a period totaling 12 months. Periods of employment prior to a break in service of less than seven years are allowed to count towards eligibility.
  • Under the DC FMLA, you must have worked at least 1,000 hours during your prior 12 month period of employment with the university. These 12 months do not need to be consecutive but need to be within the past 7 years.
  • Under the federal FMLA, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 month period immediately preceding the beginning of your leave.


Federal FMLA and DC FMLA run concurrently and cannot be used consecutively if leave is covered under both laws.

Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA)

If ineligible for FMLA, employees who need to take continuous or intermittent medical leave due to pregnancy or childbirth can apply for leave under the District of Columbia’s Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PPWFA). Requests for continuous or intermittent leave under the PPWFA are processed through GW’s leave administrator, Lincoln Financial (PDF).

Note: Requests for workplace accommodations under the PPWFA such as flexible work arrangements, lactation breaks, lifting restrictions, etc. are still administered through the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Access. The EEOA office can be reached at [email protected] or 202-994-9656. 



Qualifying reasons under the FMLA include:

  • The birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child
  • The employee’s own serious health condition
  • The care of a family member who has a serious health condition

The federal FMLA also permits eligible employees to take military family leave for:

  • A qualifying exigency related to the fact that the employee’s spouse, child or parent is on or has been called to active duty
  • The care of a covered service member or veteran with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of active duty

Under the DC FMLA, eligible employees are permitted up to 16 workweeks of family leave and 16 workweeks of medical leave during a 24 month period. 

Under the federal FMLA, eligible employees are permitted up to a total of 12 workweeks of family and medical leave during a 12 month period or up to 26 workweeks during a single 12 month period for military caregiver leave. An eligible employee is limited to a combined total of 26 workweeks of leave for any federal FMLA-qualifying reason during the “single 12-month period.

Coordination with Paid Time Off

FMLA provides job protection; however, it does not provide pay. Employees can elect to use their available annual* and sick time during approved FMLA leave to remain in paid status. Employees can also elect to take FMLA unpaid.

*Note, if advanced annual time is used and the employee leaves the university before ​the end of the fiscal year or takes unpaid time off, they will need to repay the university for any overpayment of annual time that did not accrue.

Benefits Continuation

Employees may choose to either continue or cancel eligible benefits during unpaid leave. Benefits continuation (PDF) varies between the leaves of absence. 

If you wish to cancel some or all of your benefits, you can make those changes in bswift, the university’s benefits enrollment system. Please note that if you cancel any of your voluntary life or disability benefits (e.g., optional employee or spouse life, voluntary short-term disability, etc.), you may be required to submit Evidence of Insurability (EOI) to re-enroll in those benefits when you return to work.

Premium Remittance

If continuing benefits during unpaid leave, employees will need to pay for their benefits premiums through Payer Express, GW’s online payment system.

If applicable, Benefits will provide instructions on how to log in and enroll (PDF) in a Payer Express account in order to remit payment for benefits premiums during unpaid leave.  

Please note that if you do not pay your portion of benefits premiums, your benefits may be canceled effective the end of the month following your last payment or deduction. 

Returning to Work

Please contact your manager and Benefits prior to your return to work. Failure to provide notice of your return to work may negatively affect payroll and benefits processing.

Fitness for Duty

If you were out on FMLA leave for your own serious health condition, you will be required to present an authorization to return to work (PDF) prior to reinstatement. If such authorization is not received in a timely fashion, your return to work may be delayed until authorization is provided.

Employees who are able to return to work with restrictions or workplace accommodations need to be cleared by the EEOA office prior to reinstatement. Please contact the EEOA office at (202) 994-9656 or [email protected] to discuss the returning to work with restrictions process.

Benefits Enrollment

Upon return to active employment, you may re-enroll in any canceled benefits within 30 calendar days of returning to work via the benefits enrollment system. If no election is made, your next opportunity to enroll will be during open enrollment or within 30 calendar days of a Qualified Life Event.

How to Apply

Lincoln Financial administers most leave and disability programs for GW including FMLA, USERRA, Staff Paid Parental leave, Resident Paid Family and Medical Leave, PPWFA leave as well as short-term and long-term disability. 

When Do I Report a Claim or Leave?

Please report a claim or leave at least 30 days in advance of a planned absence, or as soon as possible for an unplanned absence.

In addition, notify your manager and HR representative that you need to take a leave of absence. You do not need to provide any medical details or documentation to your manager.

How Do I Report a Claim or Leave?

You can report your claim or leave online or by calling (800) 213-5609 to speak with an Intake Specialist. Please have the following information available when you report your claim or leave:

  • Your GWID, telephone number and preferred email address
  • The reason for your absence
  • Your last day worked, first day absent from work and anticipated return to work date
  • Your healthcare provider’s name, address, fax and telephone numbers, if applicable

Please keep a record of your claim or leave number to check the status of your claim or leave online. You can also check the status of your claim or leave by calling your Lincoln Financial absence specialist at  (800) 213-5609 or emailing [email protected].

Message about MyLincolnPortal

If your absence is for your own health condition or pregnancy, and you do not have GW short-term disability coverage, please call Lincoln instead of applying online. Please tell the Intake Specialist to open a standalone leave for you so an STD claim is not opened. Online submission will automatically open an STD claim and delay your leave packet which contains the required forms for leave approval.

Please also note that only federal and state-mandated leave entitlements are visible on MyLincolnPortal. Company-sponsored leave balances under programs such as Staff Paid Parental Leave or employer-provided family and medical leave are not visible online. However, if you are eligible and approved, your requested leave will be applied by your Lincoln Financial absence specialist under the applicable GW leave policy.