All public agencies and private businesses with more than 50 employees are governed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was made law by the federal government in 1993. Not every employee will qualify for the time off, and companies have varying policies for compensation during the approved leave. Here are some of the basics of the act’s provisions and how employers can be certain to comply with them.
The FMLA carries a number of conditions that must be met before an employee qualifies for the time off. First, the worker must have been employed for 12 months and worked a total of 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave. The employee must work at a location that has 50 or more workers or live within 75 miles of the location.
Only certain medical circumstances are covered under the FMLA, and the “family” part of the act carries restrictions as well. Both male and female workers qualify equally for leave under the FMLA. They may take the leave all at once or on an intermittent basis, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the operation of the company. The exact details of this arrangement are established by the employer and the employees.
Employees who wish to take time off under the FMLA due to medical reasons will need documentation from their doctors denoting that a serious medical condition exists. In the case of family leave that is taken as a result of a child’s birth or an adoption, no such documentation is required.
The FMLA essentially guarantees that an employer will not give an employee’s job to someone else or eliminate the position while the worker is out on leave. The time off, under the act, is unpaid, though some employers have internal policies in place that allow for paid leave.
Employers must grant time off to employees who have qualifying serious medical conditions, who have had a baby or adopted a baby (including spouses), who are caring for an immediate family member who has a qualifying illness, or some military situations such as active deployment. It is key that all workers who request leave should be considered, regardless of gender.
There are other conditions and situations that affect the specific provisions of the FMLA, including health care insurance coverage, exceptions for “key employees” and circumstances involving the use of accrued paid time off.
The Family and Medical Leave Act can be a significant burden in the workplace from an employer’s standpoint. There are many facets of the legislation that require careful consideration when it comes to compliance. An additional nuance comes from the fact that state and local laws can further define the provisions of the rule. For example, some states have eliminated rules governing the number of workplace employees who fall under the FMLA. In some states, as few as 15 employees might serve as the threshold for FMLA compliance. Other states require leave to be paid, and accrued sick time may be used up before FMLA leave begins.
Employers are required to follow all the provisions of the FMLA and each of the jurisdictional changes that have been made over the years. Again, one of the exceptions addresses “key employees” whose position in the workplace may be given to someone else if there is “substantial and grievous economic injury” to the company. The employer must give written notice to the key employee and allow that person to return to work immediately after the notice.
There are dozens of moving parts to the Family and Medical Leave Act that employers must learn. Owners and human resource department workers have to closely monitor their practices to make sure all compliance rules are met.
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