Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Enacted in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons, protecting their ability to remain employed in the meantime.

The FMLA entitles employees to take leave for the following reasons:

  • Treatment of a serious health condition
  • Birth of a child
  • Caring for a newborn child within one year of birth
  • Adopting or fostering a child within one year of placement
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition
  • Certain situations related to a family member who is a member of the military on covered active duty

Because the FMLA imposes specific eligibility requirements, it is often difficult to determine the circumstances in which an employee is able to take protected leave. If you have questions about eligibility under the FMLA, contact a lawyer at Mays & Kerr today.

Benefits Provided by the FMLA

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for specific purposes related to family issues and medical treatment. The FMLA allows an employee to take time off due to a serious health condition that makes it impossible for the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

If medically necessary, an employee can take FMLA leave in separate blocks of time. If leave is necessary to receive regular medical treatment, the employee should make efforts to schedule the treatments so that they are least disruptive to the employer's operation. Eligibility

The FMLA protects an employee's job security while allowing him/her the flexibility to take time off work to handle a medical or family situation such as a serious health condition.

A serious health condition under the FMLA:

  • Requires an overnight stay in a medical care facility;
  • Incapacitates a person for more than three consecutive days and requires ongoing medical treatment;
  • Involves a chronic condition that leaves a person incapacitated on occasion and requires medical treatment at least two times per year; or
  • Involves all matters related to pregnancy, including incapacity from morning sickness and medically required bed rest.

The FMLA applies to all public agencies as well as private sector employers with at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks of the year. An employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months in order to qualify for leave under the FMLA. In addition, the employee must have worked 1,250 hours within the year prior to the start of leave.

A pregnant woman can take FMLA leave for prenatal care or complications with the pregnancy that make her unable to work. She can also take FMLA leave to recover from serious health conditions that arise following the birth of the child. Both mothers and fathers are able to use FMLA following the birth or adoption of their child.

What Rights Does the FMLA Grant to Employers?

Employers may require an employee to provide certification of a health condition from a health care provider. If the employer requests such certification, the employer must allow 15 days to obtain it. If the employer finds that the medical certification is incomplete, the employee has at least seven days to provide the missing information. The employer does not have a right to access medical records, but is authorized to require certification from a health care professional.

Employees who wish to use FMLA leave must provide at least 30 days' notice when possible. If the qualifying event is not reasonably foreseeable, the employee should provide notice as soon as possible under the circumstances. When an employee returns from FMLA leave, the employee must be able to work at the original job function or an equivalent job with equivalent pay and benefits.

Employers are not allowed to interfere with an employee's FMLA rights. They cannot deny legitimate FMLA leave time nor can they retaliate against an employee for exercising these protected rights.

Have Questions about the FMLA? Ask a Lawyer at Mays & Kerr

If you have questions related to the Family Medical Leave Act, contact one of the attorneys at Mays & Kerr. We routinely address clients' concerns about matters related to FMLA eligibility.