Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Basic Laws

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

Employers need to understand the basic requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA offers qualified employees the right to take unpaid leave in certain situations. Employers need to know what is involved, what the employees’ rights are, and what rights the employer has.

What is a qualified employee entitled to under the FMLA?

With basic FMLA leave, an eligible employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to handle personal and family situations. These situations include the birth or adoption of a child, or being unable to work due to pregnancy complications or having a serious medical condition. These qualifying situations also include the need to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious medical condition.

Military family members can also use FMLA leave to handle certain exigencies involved with having a spouse, child, or parent on active duty. The covered exigencies include arranging for childcare, dealing with financial issues, attending pre- and post-deployment briefings, and attending counseling sessions.

Another benefit offered to military family members is the ability to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave. This unpaid leave can be used to care for a seriously ill or injured active service member or a veteran discharged within the past five years.

What basic benefits and protections are included with FMLA leave?

Employers have certain obligations when an employee goes on FMLA leave. These obligations include maintaining the person’s health insurance benefits under the same terms as when the employee was working.

When the employee returns to work, the employer must put that person back into the same or similar position, with equivalent pay and benefits. If an employee uses FMLA leave, it cannot be used to deprive the employee of benefits earned prior to the leave.

Which employees are eligible for FMLA leave?

To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work for a company that employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. That worker must have been employed for at least 12 months, though that does not have to be contiguous employment. That employee must have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the past 12 month period.

What is defined as a serious health condition covered by FMLA?

A serious health condition covered by FMLA includes injury, illness, impairment, or a physical/mental condition which involves an overnight stay in a healthcare facility or continuing treatment from a physician. The condition must either prevent the employee from performing his or her job functions, or prevent a qualified family member from going to school or doing other daily activities.

Continuing treatment, for FMLA purposes, means the person has been incapacitated for a minimum of three consecutive days. This incapacitation is combined with two visits to a healthcare provider or one visit to a healthcare provider and a regimen of treatment. The FMLA also includes coverage for employee pregnancy or chronic health conditions.

How can employees use FMLA leave?

Employees have the right to use FMLA leave as a single block, in intermittent blocks, or as a reduced work schedule when medically necessary. Employees must make a reasonable effort to schedule FMLA leave for planned medical treatments at such times which would minimize disruption to the employer’s operations.

What are employee responsibilities when taking FMLA leave?

When FMLA leave is foreseeable, the employee must give 30 days notice to the employer. If the leave is not foreseeable, the employee must give notice as soon as possible and must comply with normal call-in procedures.

The employee must provide sufficient information to show the requested leave is qualified under FMLA guidelines. This information can include doctor’s opinions and reports, hospitalization records, and military records. The employee may have to recertify the leave is still required at some point.

What are employer responsibilities for FMLA leave?

If a worker requests FMLA leave, the employer must review the request promptly. If sufficient information has been provided, the employer must notify the employee, whether the leave is covered by FMLA or not. If there is not enough information, the employer must notify the employee and request additional information.

The FMLA makes it illegal for employers to interfere with a qualified employee’s ability to exercise his or her rights. An employer cannot discharge, discriminate, or discipline an employee for exercising those rights. Employees have the right to file a complaint with the US Department of Labor or file a lawsuit if he or she believes the employer did not meet their obligation.

Employers need to understand the implications of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Talk with the Labor and Employment team at Brown & Fortunato Give us a call at (806) 345-6300 or Contact Us via email. Our website offers a full review of our other practice areas. Feel free to visit our law offices at 905 S. Fillmore St., Suite 400, in Amarillo, Texas.

This information is subject to change. Please check for updates that are more recent than the published date of this article.