The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that applies to state and local employers and certain private employers. Companies in the private sector must comply with the FMLA when they have 50 or more employees who work within 75 miles of each other. Not all employees who work for covered employers are eligible to take leave under the FMLA. Instead, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer and have been employed for at least 12 months before you take leave. You can take leave under the FMLA to care for your medical condition or your immediate family member’s condition, to bond with a new child, or to address a military service member’s deployment or service-related injuries.
FMLA leave is available for a maximum of 12 weeks in 12 months. The leave can be taken intermittently or in a single chunk. In some situations, an employee who has used up their leave under the FMLA might need to extend it. Here is what you need to know about extending FMLA leave in Pennsylvania from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Leave Under the FMLA
Leave under the FMLA is unpaid, but it is job-protected. This means that your employer must hold your job for you while you are out on leave and must also continue your employer-provided health insurance benefits while you are away from work. You can take up to 12 weeks of leave every 12 months if you are an eligible employee and have a qualifying reason. Employers are not required to provide additional leave under the FMLA beyond 12 weeks, but it might be possible for you to extend leave in some cases.
When Can You Extend Your Leave?
If you need to take more time than the 12 weeks you are allotted under the FMLA, you can ask your employer. Many employers will agree to provide a few extra days or a week of additional time. However, if you need to take a month or more off from work beyond the initial 12 weeks, your employer might argue that holding your job for a longer period presents an undue hardship. It can be difficult to extend your leave under the FMLA since there aren’t any rules about how much extra leave your employer needs to offer or if they need to do so at all.
Reasonable Accommodations and the Need for Extended Leave
If your medical condition qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you might ask for additional leave from work as an accommodation under the ADA. Covered employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees so that they can complete the duties of their jobs. A reasonable accommodation might include additional time off from work. However, employers are not required to accommodate employees when doing so would create an undue hardship for the employer.
Whether your request for additional leave beyond the 12 weeks allotted by the FMLA will be considered a reasonable accommodation will be assessed based on the facts of your case. These cases are decided by the court on a case-by-case basis. If your requested extension is substantial, a court might be likelier to find that your absence presents an undue hardship on your employer and that your accommodations request is not reasonable.
Extended FMLA Leave for Military-Related Reasons
If you need to take time off from work because of an immediate family member’s deployment or to care for your military family member’s service-related injuries, the FMLA provides additional leave. Family members who need to take FMLA leave based on these reasons are allowed to take up to 26 weeks off from work in 12 months.
Accrued Leave and FMLA
Some employers might allow employees to first use up their accumulated paid time off and paid sick leave hours before beginning their FMLA leave. However, employers are also allowed to require employees to use this leave concurrently with their FMLA leave and can count it toward the 12 weeks. If your employer allows some employees to take FMLA leave consecutive to their accumulated paid time off, it must allow all employees to do the same and can’t discriminate based on pay, sex, or other factors. You can review your employer’s policies to determine how it counts accumulated paid leave for employees who take leave under the FMLA.
Does Pennsylvania have Paid Family Leave?
Unlike some of the surrounding states, Pennsylvania does not offer paid family leave. This means that you won’t have the opportunity to combine your leave under the FMLA with paid family leave mandated by the state.
Extending Leave With Short-Term Disability
If your employer provides short-term disability benefits, you might be able to take additional leave by using it. You will need to check with your employer and your plan administrator to determine whether you qualify to do this.
Talk to the Attorneys at Swartz Swidler
If your condition prevents you from returning to work at the end of taking 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA, your employer may or might not allow you to take additional leave. If you need more leave, you should reach out to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler for guidance. We can help you review your options so that you can ensure your rights are protected. Call us at (856) 685-7420 to request a free consultation.