1993, President Clinton signed the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA),
which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid
leave for childbirth, adoption, foster care, to care for a child,
parent, or spouse with a serious medical condition, or if the employee
themselves has serious medical condition.
is covered by FMLA?
The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration's
Wage and Hour Division enforces FMLA. FMLA applies to all public
agencies, including state and local governments, and local education
agencies such as schools. In the private sector, FMLA also applies
to employers with 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite,
who are employed 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding
calendar year. Most federal and congressional employees are under
the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
are guidelines to who is eligible for FMLA benefits. An eligible
employee is one who works for a "covered" employer and has worked
for 12 months or more. This includes anyone working at least 1,250
hours during the preceding 12 months. That employee is also required
to work in the United States or in any territory of the United States.
leave is foreseeable, an employee must provide the employer with
at least 30 days notice or as much notice as is practicable. Foreseeable
events would include scheduled surgery, adoption, or birth of a
child. An employer may require medical certification of a serious
health condition from the employee's health care provider, periodic
reports of the employee's status, and intent to return to work.
In addition, the employer can ask for the employee to provide a
fitness-for-duty certification prior to returning to work.
may take FMLA in the form of a reduced work schedule or intermittently.
Intermittent leave is not an entitlement under FMLA. Supervisors
and department heads may choose to grant such a request to assist
an employee in coping with their reason for the leave.
of states have separate family leave statutes whose regulations
may differ from the standard FMLA. Employers must comply with the
more beneficial provision.
benefits maintenance and job-protection
The FMLA provisions start when the employee first goes on leave.
It requires your employer to keep your job open while you are gone,
although it does not require your employer to pay you during this
time. Under most circumstances, an employee may elect or the employer
may require the use of any accrued paid leave (vacation, sick, personal,
etc.) for periods of unpaid FMLA leave.
the employee has health insurance coverage through the employer's
group health plan, the employer is required to maintain coverage
for the duration of the FMLA leave. If applicable, arrangements
will need to be made for employees to pay their share of health
insurance premiums while on leave. The employer cannot require pre-payment.
The regulations state that if an employee does not meet the agreed
upon date for payment of the premium, he or she has a 30-day grace
period during which provision of health coverage will not be affected.
If coverage lapses for nonpayment of premium coverage or if the
employee elects not to retain his or her group health care benefits
while on leave, the health care benefits must be restored with the
same plan upon return with no restrictions.
law requires that when the employee returns from FMLA leave, the
employee is entitled to be restored to the same or an equivalent
job. An equivalent job is one with equivalent pay, benefits, responsibilities,
etc. Taking leave will not result in the loss of employment benefits
accrued prior to the date that the leave begins. The law does not
entitle you to continue to accrue seniority or other benefits while
on unpaid FMLA leave. However, the employee must be returned to
employment with the same benefits, at the same levels, as existed
when the leave commenced.
is important to know that employers are required to post a notice
in a visible and common area of the organization that outlines the
basic provisions of FMLA. If an FMLA notice is not posted companies
are subject to a civil money penalty. Employers are also prohibited
from discriminating against or interfering with employees who take
illustrating FMLA Cherie will go on maternity leave soon. She has 10 days of vacation
and sick pay remaining. She has short-term disability insurance
that covers 66.7 percent of her salary (two-thirds) starting in
the third week, and continuing through the 12th week of her leave.
Because of the FMLA, Cherie is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
In this circumstance, however, Cherie's company plan allows her
to receive her entire salary for 10 days (her remaining sick leave),
and two-thirds of her salary through the 12th week of her leave.
is also about to go on maternity leave. She has one week of sick
time remaining. Her company offers six weeks of short-term disability
at 66.7 percent (two-thirds) of her salary. She too is entitled
to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the FMLA. During the first seven
weeks she would be covered by her company plan, and the remaining
five weeks - bringing the total time to 12 weeks - she would be
covered by the FMLA. So, in Deborah's case, the first week would
be sick time (full pay); the next six weeks would be disability
(two-thirds pay); and the final five weeks would be FMLA leave (no