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Family And Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA” or the “Act”) was passed by Congress to balance workplace and familial responsibility needs. The act grants eligible employees twelve weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member during any given twelve-month period, so long as both the employer and employee meet specific eligibility requirements.

Under the FMLA, eligible employees are classified as employees who an employer has employed for at least twelve months and have at least 1250 hours of service with their employer within the preceding twelve-month period. Meanwhile, eligible employers are classified as any entity engaged in commerce, employing 50 or more employees each business day during 20 or more calendar workweeks per year.

When can the FMLA leave be taken?

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave during any twelve-month period due to “serious health conditions” affecting the employee or the employee’s family member. The Act defines a serious health condition as an illness, physical, or mental impairment requiring inpatient care at a medical care facility or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. Under the FMLA, leave can be taken for the following:

  • the birth of a child;
  • the placement of a son or daughter in the care of the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee that has been diagnosed with a serious health condition; or
  • because of a serious health condition that renders the employee unable to perform the functions of their position.

In addition to taking one continuous twelve-week leave, employees can also take intermittent leave or work a reduced schedule if they so choose. If the leave is foreseeable, employees are required to provide their employer with at least 30 days’ notice before their leave.

How do I prove that FMLA leave is necessary?

Most employers will require that a request for leave be supported by some certification issued by a healthcare provider. The FMLA authorizes employers to request these certifications, which they must promptly submit to their employer. Additionally, the Act outlines what criteria a certification must meet to be considered sufficient by an employer.

To be considered sufficient, the certification must contain the following:

  • the date upon which the serious health condition commenced;
  • the predicted duration of the condition;
  • the appropriate medical facts regarding the condition to the knowledge of the health care provider;
  • if the employee is taking leave to care for a family member, a statement indicating that the family member in question requires care from the employee is required;
  • if the employee is taking leave due to a personal health condition, a statement indicating that the employee is unable to perform their job functions is required; and
  • for intermittent or reduced schedule leave for planned medical treatment, the dates and expected duration of treatment are expected.

Employers are allowed to request a second opinion at their own expense, from a healthcare provider designated by the employer, so long as the employer does not employ the provider on a regular basis. If the original and second opinions conflict, then the employer can request a third opinion at their own expense, which would decide the finality of the certification. Additionally, an employer may require recertification’s on a reasonable basis throughout an employee’s leave.

What rights do I have as an employee taking FMLA leave?

Under the FMLA, employees are entitled to the position’s restoration upon their return. This requirement can be satisfied by either returning the employee to the position held at the commencement of their leave or restoring them to a similar position complete with equivalent pay, benefits, and other conditions of employment. However, the Act does not entitle employees to any accrual of seniority or employment benefits during their leave, nor any position or benefits that they could have acquired if they did not take FMLA leave. Employers do have the right to deny an employee restoration only if they can prove that the denial is necessary to prevent substantial economic injury to the employer.

Suppose an employee requests intermittent or reduced schedule leave. In that case, an employer can place them in an alternative position so long as the employee has equivalent pay and benefits, and the employer can prove that the position better accommodates the employee’s recurring periods of leave. Additionally, employers can require employees to use any available paid, personal, or family leave during the duration of their FMLA leave.

During their leave, employees are also entitled to maintain healthcare coverage provided by their employer. This entitlement applies to the employee and any family members covered by the employees’ healthcare plan. However, if the employee fails to return from leave, the employer can recover the premium they paid to maintain coverage for the employee during their leave.

How can we help?

Hoyer Law Group is experienced and equipped to help you understand your eligibility and rights under the FMLA. If you have any questions regarding the FMLA or other employment matters, don’t wait – contact us today!