Enacted in 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides that covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for a variety of medical and other reasons, and they must do so without placing their job status in jeopardy. This legislation makes it easier for individuals to take time off of work during a pregnancy, to care for a newborn baby, seek treatment for a medical condition of their own or care for an immediate member of their family who has a serious health issue. However, it is important to note that FMLA’s provisions do not apply to absolutely every employer, and thus some employees may find themselves ineligible for its protections.
Definition of “Covered” Employers and Employees
The safeguards embodied by the FMLA must be observed by public agencies of all types, including local, state and federal employers. Schools as well as private employers who employ at least 50 workers in 20 or more workweeks in the current or prior year are also subject to the law’s requirements. While this is a relatively broad category of employers, it can certainly exclude a large number of employees who may have assumed they were eligible for leave of this type.
Employees are FMLA eligible provided they work for a “covered” employer as outlined above, have worked for their employer for no less than 12 month and have logged no less than 1,250 hours over that 12-month period. They also must have worked at a location in the United States or a territory or possession thereof, where there are at least 50 employees of the same enterprise within a 75-mile radius.
What Does the FMLA Offer Employees of “Covered” Entities?
Employers who are subject to the requirements of FMLA must continue providing health insurance under an existing group plan to employees utilizing the law’s benefits for the entire duration of their leave. Employees returning to work after such leave must be returned to their prior positions or to an equivalent role with identical benefits, salary and employment terms. Employees who choose to use FMLA’s benefits may not lose their right to any benefits accrued before the start of their leave.
Employer Verification of FMLA Eligibility
Whenever an employee of a covered employer seeks to exercise his or her right to benefits under FMLA, the employer has the right to demand advance notice and/or medical certification of the condition necessitating the requested absence. If these things are not produced, leave can lawfully be denied. If the employee is the individual with the health condition, an employer can request substantial documentation certifying their fitness to return to work once the period of leave has ended. Ultimately, these provisions are intended to give employers sufficient time and information with which to determine whether an employee is truly FMLA-eligible.
When a family or medical situation occurs requiring an employee to take extended leave, the FMLA can provide much-needed relief and security. Regrettably, some employers engage in behaviors that are discriminatory against those seeking to assert their statutory rights to such unpaid leave. An attorney specializing in cases involving the FMLA can help individuals protect those rights and hold accountable the businesses and employers guilty of violating them. If you would like for us to evaluate your FMLA issue, please feel free to contact us at 866-344-9243(WAGE), or email us at [email protected]