Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was designed to make life easier for employees with family or health problems. You need to know your rights under the act so you can take full advantage of it. Here are some details about the law, as well as helpful examples of what could happen under typical circumstances:
You can take up to twelve weeks unpaid leave in any twelve-month period for the birth of a child or an adoption or for the need to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition or a health condition that limits your job performance.
The act provides that you must be reinstated to your old job or an equivalent position upon returning to work.
You will be required to provide thirty days’ notice for foreseeable leaves for birth, adoption, or planned medical treatment.
While on leave, you can’t collect unemployment or other government compensation.
The act covers you only if you’ve been employed for at least one year and for at least 1,250 hours (twenty-five hours a week) with your current employer.
You are protected from retaliation in the same way as under other employment laws. You can’t be discriminated against if you complain about family leave policies, join protests with other employees, or file a charge based on any conditions of the FMLA.
Your employer has rights too:
An employer may demand that you obtain medical opinions and certifications regarding your need for the leave and may require a second or third medical opinion. Medical certification must include the expected dates for treatment and the planned duration of the treatment.
An employer may require you to substitute any accrued paid vacation or personal leave for any part of the twelve-week period of leave. If you are taking leave for a serious health condition, you must use any medical or sick leave first.
An employer must keep providing health care benefits during the leave, as though you were still working. But the act does not require the employer to pay you while you’re on leave.
You should know these key definitions to protect your FMLA rights:
Serious health condition: An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Such conditions may include heart attacks, heart conditions requiring bypass operations, cancer, back conditions requiring therapy or surgical procedures, strokes, sever respiratory conditions, spinal injuries, pneumonia, sever arthritis, severe nervous disorders, and pregnancies that involve complications. These conditions must require absences from work either for the condition or operation itself or for continuing medical treatment or supervision.
Medical certification: Must include the date the condition began, the probable duration, and appropriate medical facts in order to support an employee’s claim to take temporary medical leave.
Certification: Documentation that you “are needed to care for” your family member. This includes psychological, physical, or medical care.
Reasonable prior notice: When the need to take leave is foreseeable, thirty-day notice is required for birth, adoption, or planned medical treatment.
Equivalent position: Requires duties and other terms, conditions, and privileges to be equal to that of your previous position. “Equivalent” sets a stricter standard than “comparable” or “similar,” requiring equality not only in pay but also in hours, benefits, responsibilities, authority and promotion possibilities.
Intermittent leave: When medically necessary, you may take leave on a periodic basis or reduced schedule. Leave can be taken in a way that permits you to work part-time, if both you and your employer agree. Any leave taken on a reduced-workday or reduced-week schedule may be taken only when medically necessary.