What does the Family and Medical Leave Act provide?
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. The FMLA also provides certain military family leave entitlements. Eligible employees may take FMLA leave for specified reasons related to certain military deployments of their family members. Additionally, they may take up to 26 weeks of FMLA leave in a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
What types of businesses/employers does the FMLA apply to?
The FMLA applies to all public agencies, including local, State, and Federal employers; non-profit organizations; local education agencies; and private sector employers who employ 50 or more employees.
Who can take FMLA leave?
In order to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, an employee must:
- work for a covered employee
- have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave
- work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles
- have worked for the employer for 12 months.
Does the time employees take off for vacation, sick leave or PTO count toward the 1,250 hours?
The 1,250 hours include only those hours actually worked for the employer. Paid leave and unpaid leave, including FMLA leave, are not included.
Is the employer required to pay the employee when they take FMLA leave?
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 normal leave rules in order to substitute paid leave. When paid leave is used for an FMLA-covered reason, the leave is FMLA-protected.
When can an eligible employee use FMLA leave?
A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12 month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- for the birth of a son or daughter, and to bond with the newborn child
- for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, and to bond with that child
- to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition
- to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition
- for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.
The FMLA also allows eligible employees to take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a “single 12-month period” to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
Are employers required to tell their employees of the existence of FMLA and the employee’s right to take FMLA leave?
Every employer covered by the FMLA is required to post and keep posted on its premises a notice explaining the FMLA’s provisions and providing information concerning the procedures for filing complaints of violations of the FMLA with the Wage and Hour Division. An employer that willfully violates this posting requirement may be subject to a civil money penalty of up to $110 for each separate offense. Additionally, employers must include this general notice in employee handbooks or other written guidance to employees concerning benefits, or, if no such materials exist, must distribute a copy of the notice to each new employee upon hiring.
When an employee requests FMLA leave or the employer acquires knowledge that leave may be for a FMLA purpose, the employer must notify the employee of his or her eligibility to take leave, and inform the employee of his or her rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. When the employer has enough information to determine that leave is being taken for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employer must notify the employee that the leave is designated and will be counted as FMLA leave.
For more information, visit the Wage and Hour Division.