What You Need to Know about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA is a federal law that allows eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period of time for specified family and medical reasons. While FMLA leave is unpaid, it entitles an employee with continuation of health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Alongside, it also protects your job. Thus, FMLA is intended to maintain a balance between your work and health and family needs.
Let’s take a quick example: Susan, a 43 year-old, private company employee has recently had a slip and fall requiring her to undergo a corrective surgery of her broken leg. The doctor has advised her that she may need couple of weeks to recuperate after the surgery is performed. In such an event, Susan may take the FMLA leave from work if she is found to be eligible for it.
When can you take the FMLA leave?
One of the best parts of the FMLA is that you can take leave not only for your own health and medical reasons but also for the needs of your immediate family members. In a nutshell, you can take FMLA leave for the following reasons:
- A serious health condition that you may experience;
- To care for an immediate family member that has a serious medical condition;
- The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
- The placement with you of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement; or
- For specified reasons related to certain military deployments or to care for a covered service member.
Please note that the FMLA applies when it comes to the health needs and care of yourself and/or your immediate family members. Therefore, it does not apply to the care of other relatives.
Are you eligible to take the FMLA leave?
Not all employees are automatically eligible for FMLA leave. In order to be eligible, you need to satisfy the following conditions:
- You must work for a covered employer;
- You must work for the employer for a minimum of 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months, before taking leave under FMLA;
- Your employer has 50 or more employees at or within 75 miles of your jobsite.
Once you are found eligible, you are entitled to up to twelve (12) workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.
Who is a Covered employer under the FMLA?
Now you may wonder who is a covered employer under the FMLA. While FMLA covers both private and public employers, it does not apply to just any employer. In order to be covered, the employers need to meet certain criteria, such as:
- Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Thus, smaller employers with fewer than 50 employees are not mandated to comply with the FMLA;
- Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs;
- Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.
What does FMLA do to your job?
One of the most important features of the FMLA is job protection. This means that your employer cannot terminate you when you are out on FMLA leave. And once you return to work after the leave, you need to be placed back to the original position, or in the minimum, an equivalent one.
Once invoked, your employer cannot interfere with your FMLA leave and cannot retaliate against you for taking FMLA leave
The law strictly prohibits your employer from interfering with or preventing you from taking FMLA leave if you are eligible. The law also prohibits your employer from retaliating against you because of taking FMLA leave by way of termination, demotion and so on. To take an example, let’s say, Susan came back to work after three weeks of FMLA leave. Soon after she returned, her employer terminated her employment, apparently because of the leave she took from work. Susan’s employer has violated the FMLA.
If you believe that your employer has violated the FMLA, contact the O’Hara Law Firm. The O’Hara Law Firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis. Call us at 832-956-1138.