Understanding The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Achieving a balance between working and personal lives is a challenge for many employees. Employers need their employees to perform the work for which they were hired. However, the employees need the ability to handle matters at home and in their family. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) helps some employees manage personal matters without compromising their employment. Employers need to understand what the FMLA is and how it affects the workplace.

What is the FMLA?

The FMLA is a set of laws which provide certain employees in the United States with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. Not everyone qualifies, but the FMLA does cover a significant portion of the working population.

Which employees are covered by the FMLA?

The FMLA covers employees that work for government agencies and companies with more than 50 employees. This law also covers people that are employed at public and private, elementary and secondary schools.

However, not all employees of those employers are eligible. To be eligible for coverage the employee must have worked for the employer at least 12 months. Those months do not have to be consecutive or contiguous. The person must have also worked at least 1250 hours in the immediate 12 months preceding the requested leave. The employee must also work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

What situations are covered by the FMLA?

The FMLA does not replace sick days or personal days for the employer. This law is there to cover longer term issues the employee might face. Employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees in certain situations.

The first situation covered by the FMLA involves the birth of a baby. This situation could also be the adoption or foster care of a child by the employee.

The second involves the care of the employee’s immediate family member that has a serious medical condition.

The third is for the employee to take time to care for his or her own serious medical condition, which prevents him or her from working.

The fourth is for certain exigencies arising from an immediate family member that is on active duty with the military.

Eligible employees can also take time off to care for a seriously injured or ill immediate family member that is a member of the military. This situation allows an eligible family member to take off up to 26 weeks in a 12 month period for this care. The rules for this type of leave are different from other FMLA situations.

How can the employee take FMLA leave?

Eligible employees must follow employer requirements for requesting leave. These workers may be required to provide enough information for the employer to determine if the leave request is covered by FMLA rules. If the need for leave is foreseeable, the employer may require up to 30 days’ notice before the leave is scheduled to begin. In cases where the notice is shorter or unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice as soon as possible.

In some cases, the employer may require certification of the circumstances around the requested FMLA leave. This certification may require submission of medical opinions to show the need for leave.

Some employers grant the employees the ability to take FMLA leave as needed or as a reduced work schedule. This modified scheduling means that the employee takes leave in short blocks of time or reduces his or her work schedule each week. This modification all depends on the situation and the employer’s needs.

What happens if an employer violates FMLA?

The FMLA makes it illegal for an employer to deny or interfere with an eligible employee’s rights under this law. If an employee uses FMLA or even makes a request for it, the employer cannot use it as a factor to discriminate against or discharge the employee. Also, this law cannot be used as a reason for failing to hire, to promote, or to discipline someone who has taken FMLA leave.

The Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor investigates any complaints of violations. If the Division finds evidence of an FMLA violation, it can bring action in court to compel the employer’s compliance. Employees can also take private court action without notifying the Department of Labor.

If you are an employee or employer covered by the FMLA, it is critical that you understand what obligations and rights you have under the law. Consult with the Labor and Employment attorneys at Brown & Fortunato today. 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 us in person at 905 S. Fillmore, 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.