The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows up to 12 weeks off for many workers facing a family or personal medical crisis, the birth of a child or injuries related to military service provided by themselves or a family member. These laws offer peace of mind to workers and allow employers protection against discrimination by providing a set of guidelines for dealing with employee leave and family emergencies. Interpreting the laws can sometimes be confusing, especially when they begin to overlap with other regulations regarding overtime and bonus pay. Because there are already many regulations governing overtime, it is especially important for employers to understand the ins and outs of the law before applying them to any real-life employee situations. Review these frequently asked questions to guide you in determining compensation, bonus eligibility and overtime hours for employees who qualify for FMLA leave.
1.Can Workers Use Paid Leave During FMLA Leave?
According to federal law, the time off granted by FMLA regulations is unpaid. The law also states that employees may use paid leave they have already accrued through their employer to draw compensation during an FMLA-approved absence. These times run concurrently, and employers may deduct the total number of days or hours missed from both balances. This allows the employee to get paid while retaining the protection offered by federal guidelines. Employers are required to either hold a worker’s job or reinstate them to a position with equal pay and benefits at the end of their FMLA leave, and these advantages may not be denied to an employee who chooses to use paid time in conjunction with FMLA days off.
2.Can FMLA Time Off Be Counted Against Me for My Bonus?
Many employers base bonuses on merit requirements, such as perfect attendance or achieving a number of hours worked. In these cases, employers can deny bonuses to employees who do not meet the goals due to an FMLA absence. The law demands, however, that companies treat all employees equally when determining attendance for bonuses. Both paid and unpaid time off must be counted against employees when verifying bonus eligibility.
For example, Sarah and Tom both work for the same company that offers a 1-percent salary bonus to any employee who misses less than 14 days of work in a calendar year. Sarah takes 15 days of unpaid time off under FMLA guidelines to care for her husband who is recuperating after surgery. Tom takes three separate vacations throughout the year, each one week long, and uses his paid vacation time to receive compensation for 15 work days during those time periods. According to federal law, both employees must be excluded from the bonus because each missed the same amount of work days.
3.Can I Take FMLA Leave for Required Overtime if I Have a Qualifying Medical Condition?
When employees have a personal medical condition that qualifies under FMLA guidelines, they may be eligible to use their allotted time off in place of working required overtime hours. Employees who provide proper medical certification that limits them to a 40-hour workweek may use FMLA time instead of working overtime hours. Regulations allow employers to require their workers to stay on the job over 40 hours per week as long as they pay them an overtime wage for any hours worked above the 40-hour threshold. In cases where employees use FMLA time, this time is counted against their yearly allotment of 12 weeks. Employers may not discriminate against employees who use this time and must also use non-discriminatory policies when choosing workers for overtime hours. Selecting an FMLA-eligible employee for overtime service more often so as to exhaust their supply of FMLA leave and force them to either quit or work overtime would be a violation of the law.
Ensuring compliance with both FMLA law and compensation regulations helps to avoid legal tangles for employers.
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