The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides the right to eligible employees who work for covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of leave from their jobs for qualifying reasons during a 12-month period. However, leave under the FMLA is unpaid, which means you will not receive your regular salary while you are on leave. While some employers offer benefits to employees that help them while they are on FMLA leave, doing so is not mandated under federal law. Here is some information from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler about FMLA leave and what it entails.
Understanding the FMLA
The FMLA covers all state, local, and federal employers, private employers with 50 or more employees working within 75 miles of each other, and K-12 schools. This means that it does not cover all employers. Similarly, not all employees of a covered employer will be eligible to take leave under the FMLA. To be eligible, you must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months, and you must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding the date you need to take leave.
How the FMLA Works
Depending on your employer, you might be required to use any paid leave that you have accumulated before using your FMLA leave. You can be required to use up to 60 days of your accumulated paid leave, including sick leave, paid time off, or vacation days. While you are on leave, your employer is required to continue your health care benefits. However, you will need to make sure that you continue paying your employee portion of your health insurance premiums. If you allow your coverage to lapse while you are on leave, you might have to wait until your next open enrollment period to re-enroll for coverage.
Leave Under the FMLA
If you are an eligible employee who works for a covered employer, you have the right to take up to 12 weeks off from work each year to care for your serious medical condition or a close family member’s serious medical condition. You can also take FMLA leave to welcome a new child, including a newly born infant, a newly adopted child, or a child placed in your care from the foster care system. Military families also have some extra protection under the FMLA. You can take leave to take care of certain things related to your loved one’s impending deployment or up to 26 weeks of leave to care for your military service member’s serious injuries or illness.
Leave under the FMLA is job-protected. This means that when you return to your job, you must either be returned to the same position or a new one with the same pay, benefits, and duties.
You can use all 12 weeks of leave in a single chunk or take leave intermittently throughout the year. For example, if you need to take leave intermittently during your pregnancy to attend prenatal appointments, that does not mean you won’t be able to take the remaining time following the birth of your baby.
Rules for FMLA Leave
When you take leave under the FMLA, your employer can require you to provide medical certification of your continued need for leave. If you do not provide medical certification, your leave will not be protected by the FMLA. Your employer might also restrict your ability to work at a different job while you are on leave. You will need to check with your company about any type of restriction of outside employment during periods of FMLA leave that it might have.
Can Your Leave Request Be Denied?
If your employer is covered by the FMLA, it must approve your request for leave under the FMLA as long as you meet the eligibility criteria and have a qualifying reason. You must also provide your employer with at least 30 days of notice about your need to take leave if you know in advance that you will. For example, if you have a scheduled surgery, you will need to provide your employer with 30 days’ notice. In an emergency, you must notify your employer as soon as possible after you learn of your need to take leave.
Retaliation for Taking FMLA Leave
Employers cannot retaliate against employees for taking leave under the FMLA. As long as you comply with the notice and medical certification requirements, you are protected under the FMLA. If your employer retaliates against you, you should speak to an employment attorney for help with filing a retaliation claim.
If you are a key employee, and your company cannot operate without you, it is possible that you will not be reinstated to your position when your leave ends. You should speak to your employer about this at the time you request leave under the FMLA so that you understand your options.
Short-Term Disability and the FMLA
Some employers offer short-term disability benefits to their employees. If you have a short-term disability benefit through your job, you might be able to use it while you are on leave under the FMLA to continue receiving at least a percentage of your salary. You are allowed to use short-term disability benefits at the same time that you take leave under the FMLA. Since short-term disability benefits work differently at different companies, you will need to talk to your employer about how it works at your company. You might be required to use up your paid vacation and sick days first, and there might be a waiting period before you can file a claim for short-term disability benefits.
Get Help from Swartz Swidler
If you need help understanding the FMLA and your rights, you should speak to the employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can review your case and help you understand your legal options. If your request for leave has been denied, or your employer has retaliated against you for requesting or taking leave under the FMLA, you might be able to pursue a legal claim. Call us today for a free consultation at (856) 685-7420.