Know the Basics of North Carolina FMLA
Signed by President Bill Clinton during his first term in office, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 was enacted into law to balance the needs of the workplace with the requirements for maintaining a healthy family life.
The law allows all government workers and most private sector workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time away from their job for serious family or medical reasons without feared that they will be fired for doing so. In order to qualify for FMLA leave, a worker needs to have worked at least 1,250 hours for a company over the span of 12 months or longer.
North Carolina has expanded on the protections afforded by the FMLA with respect to taking leave from work. State leave laws mostly deal with allowing a parent to tend to the educational needs of a child.
North Carolina-FMLA Basics
The federal law is well-known to those who have brought a new child into their family, whether that be through childbirth or adoption. This means that the 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave can be used for the birth and bonding with a newborn child or to band with an adopted child after the placement of that child in a worker’s family. Employees can also take off for to care of an immediate family member who has fallen seriously ill or for their own serious health problem.
The FMLA also affords the protection of unpaid leave for workers with a family member in the military to take care of issues related to deployment or to take care of a family member hurt on a military campaign. For care of an immediate family member injured during active duty, the FMLA allows up to 26 weeks of unpaid time off in a 12-month period.
Employer FMLA Requirements
Companies must keep their workers abreast of FMLA developments and post information explaining the FMLA provisions and the processes for filing complaints of FMLA violations in a high-traffic area where it can be easily seen by workers and job applicants.
Along with posting the FMLA provisions, employee handbooks and other documentation must include information on North Carolina’s state leave laws. If these kinds of materials do not exist, the company needs to let new workers know about their leave entitlements and protections upon starting the job, as opposed distributing this information to all workers annually.
Companies can make a handbook or notice regarding the FMLA available to new workers through electronic means, provided that all of the relevant facts are accessible to all workers and it is made available to workers not literate in English.
When a worker requests FMLA leave or when the company recognizes that a worker's leave may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee must be told that their situation could qualify for FMLA leave within five working days.
Whether or not a leave situation falls under the auspices of the FMLA should be established at the first instance of leave, with all FMLA absences for the very same qualifying reason falling under that same justification unless something changes. If the worker is deemed not entitled to FMLA leave, the company must give them at least one reason why leave was denied.
If a worker supplies notice for FMLA leave due to a qualifying reason and the worker's eligibility status has not changed, an employer should not ask for more validation. However, if the worker's FMLA eligibility status has ‘evolved’ – the company must inform the worker of the difference in status within five business days, unless unusual circumstances arise that prevents this from taking place.
The company should offer written notice outlining the specific requirements and responsibilities of the worker and detail any consequences of a failure to meet these responsibilities. This notice shall be supplied to the worker each time the FMLA notice is given. If leave is already underway, the notice needs to be mailed to the worker's home.
North Carolina FMLA-Related Laws
For private employers, North Carolina (NC) expands FMLA leave only in respect to allowing parents to attend necessary school meetings and functions for their child. NC-FMLA laws allow for workers to take up to four hours of leave each year to attend to school-related business, and an employer is allowed to ask for proper validation from the school.
North Carolina law has also laid out leave circumstances for some state employees. To be entitled to North Carolina FMLA, a state worker must have worked for the state a minimum of 12 months, as well as 1,040 hours during the previous 12-month period, which is different from the FMLA’s 1,250-hour mandate. While temporary workers have no coverage under this law, a worker who has worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the prior 12-month period might take 12 weeks unpaid leave under NC-FMLA laws.
A state worker may use any or all accumulated leave or unpaid leave for childbirth or the illness of an immediate family member. Both parents who are North Carolina state workers can also take any accumulated leave time after having a child.
When taking leave for the state worker's own illness, sick leave must be used up before using vacation leave or unpaid leave. State agencies do not mandate workers to use accrued leave for unpaid FMLA leave. If the employee’s work-preventing illness lasts longer than 60 days, the worker can use up what is left of their available leave time or begin drawing short-term disability benefits.
State workers not eligible for FMLA, possibly because they did not work the required 1,250 hours, could use sick leave for a newborn or adopted child under NC-FMLA laws. Sick leave can be used by the mother of a newborn or a member of her immediate family doing work for the state during the period following childbirth as authorized by a doctor. As many as 30 days of sick leave can be taken by each parent who works for the state after adoption of a child.