Family and Medical Leave Act

It is important for employees to be aware of workplace benefits, so they know where they stand before being confronted with a family or health situation. Likewise, employers must make sure their policies comply with laws mandating employee leave for such situations.  When it comes to the FMLA, here are a few things that you need to know.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law directed not at discrimination or harassment, but at making sure that employees do not lose their jobs just because they take medical leave for themselves or medical leave to care for a family member.

Employers with at least 50 employees must comply with the FMLA. Not every employee of a covered employer is eligible for leave, however. An employee must have worked for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, at a facility that has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, to be covered.

The FMLA allows qualified employees of qualified employers to take up to 12 weeks of time off from work during a specified 12 month period. This time may be taken all at once, or taken as intermittent leave.

It is important to remember that the FMLA does not require an employer to grant employees paid leave.  Rather, the FMLA simply requires that an employer hold an employee’s job for him or her for up to 12 weeks. However, an employer may require an employee to use vacation time or sick leave concurrently with FMLA leave.  This means that although the employee may receive some paid leave and is entitled to return to his or her previous job, when the employee returns from FMLA leave, he or she may have used all available vacation and sick time for that year.

Not every reason for leave is covered, either. Employees may take leave only for:

  • the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child;
  • the employee’s own serious health condition;
  • a family member’s serious health condition; and
  • qualifying demands arising out of a family member’s military deployment, or
  • a family member’s serious injury or illness arising from military service.

Furthermore, Family and Medical Leave Act leave is limited to serious medical conditions. It cannot be taken as a normal sick day.  On the other hand, an employee who suffers from a chronic condition may take intermittent leave – a day here or there as necessary because of a flare up of the serious medical condition.

The FMLA is a complicated statute, with many specific and highly technical requirements.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, here are the top 10 ways employers violate the FMLA:

  1. Failure to notify employee of FMLA rights.
  2. Failure to notify employee that leave counted towards 12-week FMLA entitlement.
  3. Counting leave that qualified under the FMLA against the firm’s absenteeism policy for disciplinary purposes.
  4. Taking disciplinary action against employee for using FMLA.
  5. Failure to grant leave to provide physical care or psychological comfort to a seriously ill parent.
  6. Failure to reinstate an employee to same or equivalent position.
  7. Terminating an employee during or at the conclusion of FMLA leave.
  8. Failure to grant FMLA leave because of a misunderstanding of what qualifies as a “serious health condition.”
  9. Failure to request medical certification in writing and not giving employee at least 15 days to obtain medical certification.
  10. Failure to handle questions about the validity of a medical certification by guidelines set forth in FMLA regulations.

The Pundzak Law Office can help employers comply with the FMLA, and can advise employees who believe they have been deprived of their FMLA rights.  Call Lynn Pundzak at 513-564-9999 to schedule a consultation about your situation.