What does FMLA cover for Employees and Employers

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees at some private companies and all public sector employees with the protection to take unpaid leave in the event of a serious family or medical situation.

Signed into law in 1993 and updated numerous times, the FMLA applies to all private companies with 50 or more employees who all live within 75 miles of a primary worksite. A worker who is eligible for FMLA leave has worked a covered employer for at least a year and a minimum of 1,250 hours within the past 12 months, which need not be worked consecutively.

Eligible workers may take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave in a single 12-month period for their own serious medical condition or if an immediate family member has fallen seriously ill or become seriously injured. Up to 12 weeks can also be taken upon the arrival of a new child – whether that arrival is through birth, adoption or placement by foster care.

FMLA coverage also has certain stipulations for covered employees related to military service. A worker who is covered under FMLA can take up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave to tend to significant affairs related to an immediate family member’s active duty deployment in the US military. Also, if an immediate family member is injured or falls ill as a direct result of their military service – a covered worker can take up to 26 weeks off per rolling 12-month period to tend to their needs.

Intermittent Leave: What Does FMLA Cover?

A covered worker may be eligible for leave under FMLA that can be taken in short blocks of leave in the form of a reduced schedule. These kinds of leave can only be taken if medically necessary and as mandated by a medical professional. Workers should make every attempt to have their absences come at a time that least disrupts business operations.

If a worker who is covered under FMLA does take intermittent or reduced-schedule leave, only the amount of actually time used is to be counted against their 12-week allotment. For example, if a worker must take off on a Friday for chemotherapy treatment – only one-fifth of a week is considered used.

Worker Requirements Under the FMLA

A worker must give a minimum of 30 days notice before an FMLA leave is to start if that is possible. If the basis for the leave is unexpected, the worker must give notice as soon as possible. Workers do not have to ask explicitly for or discuss FMLA to meet their notice obligations. They do, however, have to offer their company with enough information so that it can be determined if the FMLA applies.

A company may mandate that a worker who is covered under FMLA give written validation from a doctor regarding their significant medical condition or the condition of the worker's covered immediate family member. FMLA leave could be delayed until proper notice or validation is supplied by the worker under certain circumstances.
Organizations should respond to FMLA situations in a timely manner. However, it should be noted that a company can make a retroactive designation of FMLA coverage if the worker gave sufficient notice of the need for FMLA leave.

The company can mandate recertification of the basis for leave or the medical necessity for intermittent or decreased leave at reasonable time intervals, but not more frequently than every 30 days, unless the original validation was for a longer period. Exceptions to this include when the worker requests an extension of the leave, relevant circumstances have changed or the company receives word that casts doubt on the need for leave.

In all cases, the company may ask for a recertification of a medical problem every six months in reference to an absence by a worker under FMLA coverage.

The company may mandate that a worker use paid vacation, leave or sick time at the same time as FMLA leave. A company can mandate the use of sick days as long as the employer’s sick pay plan allows pay for these purposes. If a worker is obligated to take paid vacation and use paid sick days during an FMLA coverage leave, it does not extend the entitlement to FMLA leave beyond 12 weeks, assuming this is made clear in the employer’s policy.

Organizations should make it clear in their FMLA coverage policy and subsequent notice to workers that such leaves run at the same time. Organizations should also be aware of conflicting or overlapping provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What is does FMLA cover for Employers?

For the period of time of FMLA leave, the company must maintain the worker's health coverage under any health plan for groups under the same conditions that coverage would have been supplied if the worker had not taking FMLA leave. Workers can be required to continue making any payments or premiums during the leave that they were making them prior to the leave starting. If the worker does not come back to work after FMLA leave ends, the company might be able to recover payments it made to continue the worker's health coverage while they were out on leave.

Upon returning from FMLA leave, a worker must be reinstated to the same job they held when the leave began, or to a job with equivalent pay and conditions of employment. If the company offers, the worker who is covered under FMLA can accept a short-term alternative position. The time spent in this position does not count against the worker's 12 weeks of reinstatement or leave rights.

All covered employees should be informed of their rights and responsibilities under the law, perhaps in a pamphlet called, “What Does FMLA Cover?” It is the covered employer’s responsibility to make sure workers are informed, and information is up to date.

It should be noted that organizations must preserve FMLA records for a minimum of three years. A worker could file a complaint against Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division alleging a violation of the FMLA if they think one has taken place. The worker can also go directly to the court and file a private FMLA lawsuit within 2 years from the last act that the worker contends violated the Act, or three years if the violation was willful.

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