What is The Family Medical Leave Act?
FMLA meaning? The family medical leave act helps people looking to get medical treatment and rehabilitation services for recovery from behavioral disorders and addiction. It is very helpful with security to keep your job while you are away and focused on getting sober.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave a year and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave. Employees are also entitled to return to their same or an equivalent job at the end of their FMLA leave. It also provides specific military family leave entitlements. For example, eligible employees may take FMLA leave for specified reasons related to typical military deployments of their family members. Additionally, they may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
Basically, the FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, continuing group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.
The FMLA only applies to employers that meet specific criteria. A covered employer is a:
- Private-Sector Employer: With 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer
- 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
Only eligible employees are entitled to take leave. An eligible employee is one who:
- Works for a covered employer;
- Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
- Has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave*; and
- Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
The 12 months of employment do not have to be consecutive. That means any time previously worked for the same employer (including seasonal work) could, in most cases, be used to meet the 12-month requirement. However, if the employee has a break in service that lasted seven years or more, the time worked before the break will not count unless the break is due to service covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), or there is a written agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement, outlining the employer’s intention to rehire the employee after the break-in service.
FMLA Leave Entitlement
Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of leave in 12 months for one or more of the following reasons:
- The birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care;
- To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition;
- For a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job; or
- For any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status.
An eligible employee may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness when the employee is the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of the servicemember. The “single 12-month period” for military caregiver leave is different from the 12 months used for other FMLA leave reasons.
Under some circumstances, employees may take FMLA to leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis. That means an employee may take leave in separate blocks of time or reduce the time they work each day or week for a single qualifying reason. When the break is needed for planned medical treatment, the employee must make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment to unduly disrupt the employer’s operations. If FMLA leave is for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, the use of intermittent or reduced schedule leave requires the employer’s approval.
Under certain conditions, employees may choose, or employers may require employees to “substitute” (run concurrently) accrued paid leave, such as sick or vacation leave, to cover some or all of the FMLA leave period. An employee’s ability to substitute accrued paid leave is determined by the terms and conditions of the employer’s ordinary leave policy.
The FMLA only requires unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid vacation leave, paid sick or family leave for some or all of the FMLA leave period. An employee must follow the employer’s standard leave rules to substitute paid leave. When paid leave is used for an FMLA-covered reason, the leave is FMLA-protected.
Employees must comply with their employer’s usual and customary requirements for requesting leave and provide enough information for their employer to reasonably determine whether the FMLA may apply to the leave request. Employees generally must ask for leave 30 days in advance when the need for leave is foreseeable. When the need for rest is foreseeable less than 30 days in advance or is unforeseeable, employees must provide notice as soon as possible and practicable under the circumstances.
When an employee seeks to leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason for the first time, the employee need not expressly assert FMLA rights or even mention the FMLA. However, if an employee later requests additional leave for the same qualifying condition, the employee must specifically reference the qualifying reason for leave or the need for FMLA leave.
Covered employers must:
- Post a notice explaining rights and responsibilities under the FMLA (and may be subject to a civil money penalty of up to $110 for willful failure to post);
- Include information about the FMLA in their employee handbooks or provide information to new employees upon hire;
- When an employee requests FMLA leave or the employer acquires knowledge that leaves may be for an FMLA-qualifying reason, provide the employee with notice concerning their eligibility for FMLA leave and their rights and responsibilities under the FMLA; and
- Notify employees whether the leave is designated as FMLA leave and the amount of leave that will be deducted from the employee’s FMLA entitlement.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, including alcohol and drug addiction rehab and detox. This fact sheet provides general information about which employers are covered by the FMLA, when employees are eligible and entitled to take FMLA to leave, and what rules apply when employees take FMLA to leave.
When an employee requests FMLA leave due to their serious health condition or a covered family member’s serious health condition, the employer may require certification supporting the leave from a health care provider. An employer may also require second or third medical opinions (at the employer’s expense) and periodic recertification of a serious health condition.
Am I required to prove that I have a severe health condition?
An employer may require that the need for leave for a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s immediate family member be supported by a certification issued by a health care provider. The employer must allow the employee at least 15 calendar days to obtain the medical certificate.
How soon after I request leave does my employer have to ask for medical certification of a serious health condition?
Under regulations, an employer should request medical certification, in most cases, at the time an employee gives notice of the need for leave or within five business days. If the leave is unforeseen, the employer should request medical certification within five days after the leave begins. An employer may request a certificate later if they have reason to question the appropriateness or duration of the leave.
What happens if I do not submit a requested medical or fitness-for-duty certification?
If an employee fails to timely submit a properly requested medical certification (absent sufficient explanation of the delay), FMLA protection for the leave may be delayed or denied. If the employee never provides a medical certification, then the leave is not FMLA leave.
If an employee fails to submit a properly requested fitness-for-duty certification, the employer may delay job restoration until the employee provides the certification. If the employee never provides the certification, he or she may be denied reinstatement.
Job Restoration & Health Benefits
On return from FMLA leave (whether after a block of leave or an instance of intermittent leave), the FMLA requires that the employer return the employee to the same job or one that is nearly identical (equivalent).
If not returned to the same job, a nearly identical job must:
- Offer the same shift or general work schedule, and be at a geographically proximate worksite (i.e., one that does not involve a significant increase in commuting time or distance);
- Involve the same or substantially similar duties, responsibilities, and status;
- Include the same general level of skill, effort, responsibility, and authority;
- Offer identical pay, including equivalent premium pay, overtime and bonus opportunities, profit-sharing, or other payments, and any unconditional pay increases that occurred during FMLA leave; and
- Offer identical benefits (life insurance, health insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, vacation, educational benefits, pensions, etc.).
Special rules apply to employees of local education agencies. Generally, these rules apply to intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave or the taking of FMLA leave near the end of a school term. Salaried executive, administrative, and professional employees of covered employers who meet the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) criteria for minimum wage and overtime exemption under the FLSA regulations, 29 CFR Part 541, do not lose their FLSA-exempt status by using any unpaid FMLA leave. This notable exception to the “salary basis” requirements for FLSA’s exemption extends only to an eligible employee’s use of FMLA leave.
It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise any right provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act. It is also unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice or because of involvement in any proceeding related to the FMLA.
Protections for Individuals under the FMLA
The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA for most employees. In addition, most federal and certain congressional employees are also covered by the law but are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or Congress. If you believe that your rights under the FMLA have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit against your employer in court.
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DOL.gov – http://www.wagehour.dol.gov