Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, which may also be referred to as “FMLA,” is a federal law that guarantees unpaid leave to qualifying employees in specific circumstances. If an employer violates an employee’s rights under this act, the employee may be able to take legal action.
Terms of the FMLA
Under FMLA, an eligible employee of a covered employer can take an unpaid leave for a specific family or medical reason without worrying about losing his or her job or health insurance coverage. Eligible employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period in order to:
*Recover from a serious health condition that makes it impossible for the employee to perform his or her essential duties.
*Give birth to a child or care for a newborn in the first year of life.
*Care for a parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition.
*Care for or establish a relationship with a child who was adopted or placed in the employee’s care within the last year.
*Meet an urgent need or demand related to the status of the employee’s parent, spouse or child as a member of the military of covered active duty.
Eligible employees may also take up to 26 weeks of leave in 12-month period to care for a parent, child, spouse or another covered relative who is a member of the military and has a serious illness or injury.
If an eligible employee takes FMLA, he or she must be able to return to the same job or an equivalent job when the leave is complete. He or she must also have access to health insurance coverage with the same terms and conditions throughout the leave and after returning to work.
Covered employers can decide how they will calculate the 12-month period used for determining whether an employee is eligible for leave. Employers may use:
*The 12-month period that begins with an employee’s first covered leave.
*The 12-month period that ends with an employee’s first covered leave.
*Any 12-month period with relevance as a fixed leave year, such as the period immediately following an employee’s start date.
Which employers are covered by FMLA?
FMLA covers all public agencies, including Federal, State and local employers. FMLA also covers private employees who retained at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks of the current or previous year.
What makes an employee “eligible” for the purposes of FMLA leave?
To be eligible for leave under FMLA, employees must:
*Work for a covered employer.
*Work for the employer for a minimum of 12 months before taking leave.
*Work at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before requesting leave AND
*Work at a location with at least 50 employees or work within 75 miles of a location with at least 50 employees.
Verifying Your Need for Leave
Under FMLA, employers cannot deny covered leave if you meet all of the requirements, nor can they view your choice to take leave as a negative factor when making future employment-related decisions. However, employers can ask for verification of your need for leave, such as proof that you have a serious medical condition. Although you are not required to disclose medical records to your employer, you must provide some form of proof. Otherwise, the employer can deny your leave or require you to terminate leave early.