What is the difference between Federal and State Family Medical Leave Laws?

What is the difference between Federal and State Family Medical Leave Laws

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees who work for employers that are covered by the act are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work each year in order to recover from their own serious health conditions, to take care of close family members who are suffering from serious health conditions or to bond with a new child. In addition, some states, including New Jersey, have their own laws. When a state has its own family medical leave law in addition to the federal Family Medical and Leave Act, workers may have identical coverage, more extensive coverage or overlapping coverage. Here is how it works.

An overview of state leave laws

Not all states have their own family medical leave laws. In states that do, the employers are required to comply with their states’ laws in addition to the federal law, including in situations in which the state laws provide added protections. There is a broad variety of coverage levels provided by state laws, with some offering added protections and others closely mirroring the federal family medical leave law. There are other types of laws that might also apply in order to allow workers to receive time off from work and benefits when eligible employees are seeking leave, including:

  • Paid family or sick leave laws
  • Unpaid leave laws that supplement the FMLA
  • State disability laws
  • Workers’ compensation laws

How these types of state laws interplay with each other and with the FMLA can be complex. It may be a good idea for people to seek a consultation with the employment law attorneys with Swartz Swidler about the types of leave that might apply in their situations.

What happens when the state and federal leave laws mix?

In the states that have their own laws covering taking leave from work, there may be a number of different ways that the state laws and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may mix for employees. Workers do not have a duty to specify the type of leave that they are asking to take or the law that applies. Employers must apply the laws that provide the most protection to employees.

States with no state leave laws

Some states do not have their own medical leave laws, including Pennsylvania. In these states, the federal FMLA applies to eligible employees who work for covered employers and who seek to take family or medical leave off from work. The law only applies to companies with 50 or more employees who work within a 75-mile radius. Covered workers are those who have been employed for at least a year with the employer and who have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during that time. Employers must follow notice requirements and restore employees who are returning from FMLA leave to their positions or to jobs that are equivalent.

States with expanded leave provisions

Many states that have their own state leave laws have fashioned them in similar ways to the federal FMLA. Others have expanded provisions. There may be differences in the notice requirements that are imposed, the amount of allowable leave time and the certification requirements.

Employees who work in states that have state leave laws will have their leave count against the allowable time that is covered under both laws. In some cases, however, employees may be entitled to use the periods under the state and FMLA laws separately instead of using them both simultaneously. In every case, the employer is required to follow the notice and certification requirements that give the most benefit to the employees. People who have questions about the types of leave that may be available to them might want to schedule a consultation with the employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler.