1. Not all employers are covered by the FMLA- That’s right. The FMLA only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius (you can combine multiple locations to get to 50 if they are close to each other). But, don’t necessarily think your leave is a lost cause, other laws like local ordinances, or the pregnancy discrimination act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act may still protect you if you need to take a needed medical leave.
2. Not all employees are covered by the FMLA- Again, this is one of those facts many people overlook. You have to have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and worked 1,250 hours during that 12 month period. But, as above, even if you are a new employee without a full year under your belt, there are other laws that can protect you if you truly require medical accommodation.
3. FMLA time off is unpaid- Most people are surprised to hear this. Essentially, the FMLA acts as a place saver for up to 12 weeks for employees who need leave. There is no obligation under the law that this leave be paid. But, many employees, to offset the loss of income during this time period, try to exhaust their sick and vacation pay while on FMLA leave to have some income coming in.
4. FMLA leave comes in all shapes and sizes- You don’t have to take 12 weeks at once under the FMLA- You can take FMLA leave as either a single block of time (continuous weeks of leave for the birth of a child or a procedure) or in numerous shorter chunks of time if it is necessary medically (for example, occasional absences due to depression or diabetes). You can also take leave on a part-time basis if medically necessary (for example, if after surgery you are able to return to work only four hours a day or three days a week for a period of time).
5. There are no magic words to ask for FMLA leave- While you do not have to specifically ask for FMLA by name, you at least have to provide enough information for your employer to understand that you may have an FMLA qualifying condition. But, you do not have to tell your employer your diagnosis. Instead, you can simply say that your requested leave is due to an qualifying condition such as needing medication and being told you need to take days off of work. Once you give enough of this generic information to put your employer on notice, it becomes their burden to facilitate your leave for you and engage in the process of protecting your rights.