While some states have laws regarding employees taking time off for the birth of a child or serious illness, Texas does not have such a law. However, employees, who need to take such a leave, can do so in Texas with fear of losing their job due to the protections afforded by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Under the FMLA, Texas employees can take up to 12 weeks of medical leave or up to 26 weeks off to care for a member of the military without fear of either losing their job or receiving a pay cut as a result of their absence. FMLA leave can be non-consecutive weeks used over a 12-month period.
To be eligible for leave under the FMLA, employees must have worked for 12 months with their current employer and have put in 1,250 hours of work before the start of their leave. The employer must also have at least 50 employees that all live within 75 miles of the main office. Valid conditions for leave under the FMLA in Texas include a serious health condition, birth of a child, adoption of a child, care of a family member with serious illness, care for a military service member or a “qualifying” urgent need related to a family member’s military service.
On the official state website, the Texas FMLA page explains that hours worked on military duty can count toward both hours worked and tenure requirements, eliminating the possibility of a worker being ‘penalized’ for serving their country.
Leave under FMLA in Texas, and every other state can be intermittent. This means that it can be 2 or 3 hours at a time. All of these intermittent absences do count toward the 12-week total.
Texas FMLA guidelines recommend that employers furnish prompt written notice when granting FMLA leave. Conversely, employees should “keep in touch with the employer at regular intervals,” the government website suggests. The date of return can be either specified or left open.
When an employee does take leave under FMLA in Texas, it cannot be counted against them on some “point system.” Notably, the Texas website calls for the separation of mandatory FMLA leave from an employee's responsibility to follow organization policies on absences and taking leave. In other words, an organization enable FMLA for personnel where its use is warranted, but can hold a worker accountable for not complying with guidelines that apply to other employees who might be in non-FMLA situations.
The state website also says employers should comply with the Texas Payday Law regarding wage deductions. For example, if an employer is contributing to a healthcare plan on behalf of an employee on FMLA leave—as outlined in a predetermined agreement – then any money paid can be considered an advance against future wages owed and could be reimbursed in installments taken from future earnings.
Interestingly, Texas does not mandate that employers must offer sick or vacation time, yet the state does say that a company, which does offer such paid leave time, must honor its commitment to its employees. The Texas law also says the employer has the right to determine just how any sick or vacation leave plans are laid out – barring any discriminatory policy.
An Explicit Policy Example for Texas FMLA
Some state institutions, like the University of Texas at Austin, have spelled out explicit policies for dealing with the FMLA in Texas, even though the state itself does not have an official policy.
One of the FMLA-related complications laid out in the UT-Austin policy is for dealing with intermittent leave. If approved for intermittent leave, an employee must agree to the schedule determined by a relevant doctor or healthcare provider. Those on intermittent FMLA leave from the Texas university must also work with their supervisor to schedule absences when they’re the least disruptive, as well as provide up to 30 days notice when possible.
For those approved for continuous FML, they must use their accrued and available leave time concurrently. UT-Austin employees cannot use sick leave in conjunction with leave under the FMLA. Once sick or accrued leave is used up the employee is then placed on unpaid leave until either they come back, or the 12 weeks is up.
Supplementing the FMLA in Texas
In an attempt to draw talent, some Texas institutions – like the City of Austin— work with issues related to FMLA in Texas. In fact, starting last year, city workers in Austin are now provided with six weeks of paid leave for a medical emergency, after the birth or adoption of a new child. A stark contrast with other policies related to FMLA in Texas, the program is proving to be highly popular.
The paid leave is used before accrued vacation or sick time. This means that Austin city workers can then use sick or vacation time, depending on which is appropriate, after their paid leave is used up.
During the first seven months of the program, 162 parents took paid leave – costing the city over $160,000. Officials said they had projected about 60 workers would take advantage of the program, and the cost is twice what they had thought it would be.
Critics of the plan said that city workers are taking off from work at the expense of the taxpayers. However, supporters of the plan noted that the monies paid out were budgeted anyway – so the paid leave does not cost taxpayers any more than normal.
The city program applies to both parents, regardless of sexual orientation or marital status. Only about 9,000 non-contracted workers fall under the auspices of the paid leave policy – meaning it does not apply to firefighters, police or other municipal employees working under a negotiated contract.
In addition to the paid leave program, Austin also has a “leave bank” for an employee to contribute any unused leave or sick time. Workers can then pull from this bank in times of need. Those, who have not taken paid parental leave, are given a higher ranking for taking time from the bank.
Different organizations and companies in Texas taking varied approaches to medical leave in Texas can make a highly-complicated tapestry of benefits and regulations. Qcera offers a wide range of simply, intuitive solutions for those looking to stay on top of all the changes. Consider taking a trip over to the Qcera website and browsing the many software and web-based options available – all of which come with superior service.