By: J. Matthew Kelly, Esq.
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A.
The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law which seeks to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of the family by entitling employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, birth or adoption of children, and to care for family members with a serious health condition.
Not all employers are subject to the requirements of the FMLA. For a private employer to be a covered employer under the FMLA the employer must employ 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous calendar year. Different requirements apply to public employers and schools.
For an employee to be eligible for leave under the FMLA the employee must (1) work for a covered employer, (2) have worked for the employer for at least 12 months as of the date that the employee is to take leave under the FMLA, (3) have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the preceding 12-month period from the date the employee is to take leave under the FMLA, and (4) work at a location where the employer employs at least 50 people within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite.
Once it is determined that an employee is entitled to leave under the FMLA, an eligible employee may take up to 12 workweeks of leave within a 12-month period. An employee is entitled to take leave in the following situations: (1) the birth or adoption of child, (2) to care for a family member who has a serious health condition, (3) for an employee’s own serious health condition, and (4) for certain circumstances relating to a family members military service. In some circumstances, leave can be extended for military caregivers.
Important Considerations for Employers
- Covered employers are required to post and keep posted, in conspicuous places, a poster setting forth excerpts from, or summaries of, the pertinent parts of the FMLA. Additionally, a general notice regarding the FMLA must be included in employee handbooks or provided to new hires.
- If an employee requests leave under the FMLA the employer must provide the employee with notice concerning his or her eligibility for FMLA leave and his or her rights and responsibilities under the FMLA.
- If an employee’s leave is designated as FMLA leave the employer must provide to the employee a designation notice stating that the leave qualifies as FMLA leave, outline the requirements of the employee while on leave, and, if known, the amount of leave that will be deducted from the employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave.
- In certain situations, an employer is entitled to request a certification from the employee which supports the employee’s need for leave under the FMLA. The certification process allows the employer to obtain information regarding the employee’s request for leave.
- In certain situations, employers may require employee to take accrued paid leave like sick or vacation leave to cover the requested FMLA leave.
- Employers must maintain the employee’s coverage in group health plan when on FMLA leave in the same manner as when the employee was not on FMLA leave.
- When an employee returns from FMLA leave the employee must be put back in to the same position as when the leave commenced or be placed in an equivalent position with equivalent payments and benefits.
- Importantly, an employer can be liable for various damages, including wages, salary, employment benefits, costs, and attorney’s fees, if the employer interferes, restrains, or denies rights provided for under the FMLA.
If your company is facing an issue related to the FMLA or wants to ensure compliance with the standards set forth in the FMLA, contact an attorney immediately to protect your rights as the FMLA is a complex federal law with many nuances.
J. Matthew Kelly is an attorney with the law firm Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A. in Lakeland. Questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.