Many Pennsylvania workers will sometimes need to take time away from work to care for their serious medical conditions or those of their immediate family members. When people need to take extended medical leave from their jobs, they might worry about whether they might be terminated. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives eligible employees the right to take medical leave under certain circumstances. This type of leave is job-protected, so you won’t have to worry about losing your job if you are eligible for leave under the FMLA and take it. Here is what you need to know about the FMLA and whether you qualify to take medical leave from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
The FMLA gives certain employees the right to take medical leave from work when they are eligible, work for covered employers, and either have qualifying medical conditions or have immediate family members with qualifying medical conditions. The law also gives the right to the family members of military service members to take leave from work to care for their service-related injuries or prepare for active duty deployments. Under the FMLA, employers are also prohibited from retaliating against eligible employees who take leave.
Who Qualifies to Take Leave Under the FMLA?
The FMLA’s eligibility criteria are the same in all states. To qualify to take leave under the FMLA in Pennsylvania, you must meet specific criteria. The eligibility criteria for employees to qualify for leave under the act include the following:
- Must have worked for your employer for 12 months before the date of your leave
- Must have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer over the past 12 months
- Must be employed by a covered employer
The FMLA doesn’t cover all employers. Instead, it only applies to employers with at least 50 employees who work within 75 miles of each other. This rule is meant to protect small businesses that could not otherwise afford to allow an employee to take a substantial amount of time off from work.
Employer Obligations Under the FMLA
Employers have several obligations under the FMLA. One requirement they must follow is to prominently display a poster with information about their employees’ FMLA rights in a place where it can easily be seen. This poster must also be displayed in languages that employees can understand if the employer has employees who do not understand English.
If an employee requests medical leave, provides adequate notice, and has a qualifying medical condition or a family member with a qualifying medical condition, the employer must grant the leave request. Employers also are prohibited from retaliating against employees for taking leave under the FMLA. Finally, employers must return the employees to their former jobs when their leave ends or to positions that are substantially similar in terms of pay, hours, and job duties.
Leave under the FMLA is available when you have a serious medical condition or need to take time off from work to care for an immediate family member’s serious medical condition. Many different types of conditions qualify under the law. You don’t have to have a disability to take leave under the FMLA. Serious, qualifying health conditions might involve illness without disability.
Some examples of qualifying conditions for which you might take leave include the following:
- To care for your serious health condition
- To care for your family members, including your child, spouse, or parent, when they have serious health conditions
- To take maternity or paternity leave to welcome a new baby
- To take leave to welcome a newly adopted child or foster child into your home
- To take leave to care for your injured family member with military service-related injuries
- To perform specific tasks related to your military servicemember’s imminent active duty deployment
- To take intermittent leave to attend medical appointments
Job Protection Under the FMLA
The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave off from work in 12 months. This leave is job-protected, so your job should be available to you when you return to work.
If you need to take leave to care for a seriously injured military family member, the FMLA entitles you to take up to 26 weeks off from work in 12 months. Intermittent leave is also allowed. This means that you don’t have to take the entire 12 weeks off in a single chunk and can instead break it up as needed. However, the total amount of leave should not be more than 12 or 26 weeks, depending on your basis of taking qualified leave.
While your employer can’t fire you because you are taking leave under the FMLA, you can still be fired for a different qualifying reason. Most people in Pennsylvania are employed at will, which means their employers can fire them at any time for any reason as long as the reason is legal. Some examples of reasons that an employer might use to fire you include the following:
- Poor attendance unrelated to your leave
- Poor performance
- Disciplinary issues
If your employer terminates you after you take leave under the FMLA, your attorney can review the claimed reason and your personnel records to determine whether the reason appears pretextual.
Contact Swartz Swidler
If you believe you are eligible for leave under the FMLA, but your employer has denied your request or has retaliated against you for taking leave, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Call us at (856) 685-7420 for a free consultation.