Family and Medical Leave
Federal and some state laws provide certain employees with rights to take leaves from work during specific life events. Employers must understand the details of these legal leave requirements to ensure proper application to eligible employees. For assistance with legally mandated employment-leave issues, consult a knowledgeable employment lawyer at our firm.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA allows a covered employee up to 12 weeks off from work in a 12-month period to meet particular family responsibilities, including the birth or adoption of a child, placement of a foster child with the employee, care of a seriously ill family member or dealing with an employee's own sickness. An employee who has taken FMLA leave must be reinstated into the same or similar job with the same benefits and responsibilities and health-insurance benefits must continue during the leave.
This mandated leave is unpaid and nothing within the federal law requires an employer to offer paid leave. However, some employers may voluntarily or pursuant to a union agreement offer paid leave under the same circumstances covered by FMLA. Usually the employer can elect whether the paid leave runs separately from or concurrently with the FMLA leave. An employer can elect to provide or a collective-bargaining agreement or state law may mandate even more generous leave provisions than the FMLA during these personally challenging events.
The employee does not always have to take the FMLA leave in one 12-week block. Under appropriate circumstances, the 12 weeks can be taken intermittently in smaller blocks or by implementing a reduced work schedule. However, sometimes this must be approved by the employer. In some situations, two spouses with the identical employer must take leave for the same family problem concurrently.
Broadly, the FMLA applies to employers who employ 50 or more workers and are engaged in commerce or in industries that affect commerce. Also included, without concern for the number of employees, are public-sector employers at all levels of government. Special rules cover public and private schools.
Employees are eligible for leave if they have been employed by a covered employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours within the previous 12 months before FMLA leave commences.
The primary rule that an employer should remember is that there can be no retaliation or discrimination against or discharge of an eligible employee who exercises his or her right to take FMLA leave. An employee harmed by employer violation of the FMLA may sue his or her employer in a private lawsuit or the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) may sue on the employee's behalf. Additional legal remedies may be available under state leave laws.
Speak to a Lawyer
FMLA and similar state employment-leave laws are designed to allow for scheduled and efficient leave from work to attend to personal interests and to discourage employer retaliation in these circumstances, such as by demotion or termination. If you as an employer need assistance with complex leave issues, an employment attorney at our firm can provide guidance.
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