29 CFR § 825.105 - Counting employees for determining coverage.
(a) The definition of employ for purposes of FMLA is taken from the Fair Labor Standards Act, § 3(g), 29 U.S.C. 203(g). The courts have made it clear that the employment relationship under the FLSA is broader than the traditional common law concept of master and servant. The difference between the employment relationship under the FLSA and that under the common law arises from the fact that the term “employ” as defined in the Act includes “to suffer or permit to work.” The courts have indicated that, while “to permit” requires a more positive action than “to suffer,” both terms imply much less positive action than required by the common law. Mere knowledge by an employer of work done for the employer by another is sufficient to create the employment relationship under the Act. The courts have said that there is no definition that solves all problems as to the limitations of the employer-employee relationship under the Act; and that determination of the relation cannot be based on isolated factors or upon a single characteristic or technical concepts, but depends “upon the circumstances of the whole activity” including the underlying “economic reality.” In general an employee, as distinguished from an independent contractor who is engaged in a business of his/her own, is one who “follows the usual path of an employee” and is dependent on the business which he/she serves.
(b) Any employee whose name appears on the employer's payroll will be considered employed each working day of the calendar week, and must be counted whether or not any compensation is received for the week. However, the FMLA applies only to employees who are employed within any State of the United States, the District of Columbia or any Territory or possession of the United States. Employees who are employed outside these areas are not counted for purposes of determining employer coverage or employee eligibility.
(c) Employees on paid or unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, leaves of absence, disciplinary suspension, etc., are counted as long as the employer has a reasonable expectation that the employee will later return to active employment. If there is no employer/employee relationship (as when an employee is laid off, whether temporarily or permanently) such individual is not counted. Part-time employees, like full-time employees, are considered to be employed each working day of the calendar week, as long as they are maintained on the payroll.
(d) An employee who does not begin to work for an employer until after the first working day of a calendar week, or who terminates employment before the last working day of a calendar week, is not considered employed on each working day of that calendar week.
(e) A private employer is covered if it maintained 50 or more employees on the payroll during 20 or more calendar workweeks (not necessarily consecutive workweeks) in either the current or the preceding calendar year.
(f) Once a private employer meets the 50 employees/20 workweeks threshold, the employer remains covered until it reaches a future point where it no longer has employed 50 employees for 20 (nonconsecutive) workweeks in the current and preceding calendar year. For example, if an employer who met the 50 employees/20 workweeks test in the calendar year as of September 1, 2008, subsequently dropped below 50 employees before the end of 2008 and continued to employ fewer than 50 employees in all workweeks throughout calendar year 2009, the employer would continue to be covered throughout calendar year 2009 because it met the coverage criteria for 20 workweeks of the preceding (i.e., 2008) calendar year.