Sometimes it is unavoidable for employees to miss work due to life situations. The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is designed to guarantee employees the right to go on unpaid vacation under certain circumstances. It is important for employees to know what their rights are, but employers are responsible for knowing what is expected of them as well. The FMLA requirements are enforced by federal law, so most employees are covered. Whether you are an employer or employee, this short guide should give you all the information on FMLA that you will need.
FMLA Leave Mechanics
If an employer and the employee both qualify for an FMLA leave, the employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid vacation time. In each 12-month period, employees are guaranteed no more than 12 weeks of leave. Additionally, employers are required to offer the employee the position she or he held, or an equivalent position with similar pay and benefits, at the time of return.
FMLA Eligibility and Qualifications
Only certain employers are required to offer FMLA leaves to their employees, and only certain employees qualify for FMLA leaves.
- Employer qualifications – All employers working in the federal, state, or a local government, as well as the school district, must offer their employees FMLA leave. Otherwise, FMLA only applies to employers with 50 employees or more for at least 20 workweeks in the past two years.
- Employee qualifications – To qualify for FMLA, employees must work for an employer who meets the FMLA regulations. Additionally, the employee must have worked at least 12 months and 1,250 hours for this employer in the last seven years. Finally, the place of work must be a location with at least 50 employees or within 75 miles of such a location.
For an employee to take a FMLA leave, she or he must qualify, but that employee must also have an acceptable reason. The reasons to take an unpaid leave are:
- Required care of the employee’s newborn child.
- Gaining an adopted or foster child.
- The employee suffers from a serious medical condition.
- The employee’s spouse, child, or parent suffers from a serious medical condition.
- Active military duty or imminent active military duty of the employee or their spouse, child, or parent. In this case, employees are entitled to up to 26 weeks leave.
There are specific notification requirements for both the employee and the employer:
- Employer notification requirements – Employers must post the FMLA rights and responsibilities in an employee area and in any employee handbook or distribute such a notice to all employees upon their hiring. When an employee requests a FMLA leave or it is determined she or he qualifies for one, employers must notify employees that their leave will detract from their FMLA allotment.
- Employee notification requirements – Employees are required to notify employers of their leave 30 days in advance or as soon as is practical if fewer than 30 days. In certain extreme situations, the earliest possible notice may be just a few hours in advance, or even after leaving. Employees do not have to request FMLA time off specifically, unless it is the second time for the same reason, but sufficient information for employers to determine eligibility for a FMLA leave must be provided.
- After a FMLA leave has ended, employers are required to rehire employees for the same position or an equivalent position with the same pay and benefits.
- If an employee is receiving health care benefits from an employer at the time of leave, employers must continue to provide these benefits during the leave. Employees are still responsible for any related payments.
If an employee is intending to leave for medical reasons, employers may require certification of the medical condition. Employers may also request a second or third medical opinion at their own expense. Finally, at the leave’s conclusion, certification that the employee is safe to return to work can be required.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.