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What Are the Family Medical Leave Act Guidelines for Employers?

  • By: lipplaw
    Published: June 4, 2024
FMLA guidelines for employers Virginia Lawyer

Applicable employers must ensure that their employees have access to the leave benefits they are entitled to under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Understanding and following the guidelines set forth by the FMLA is essential for employers to effectively administer leave and avoid potential legal implications. In this section, we will explore the key guidelines that employers must adhere to when it comes to FMLA.

What Employees are Eligible to Take Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Leave?

Under the FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius are required to provide job-protected leave to eligible employees. To be eligible, employees must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months, and be employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed.

What are Covered Reasons for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Leave?

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for various reasons, including:

a. The birth and care of a newborn child.

b. The adoption or foster care placement of a child.

c. Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.

d. A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job functions.

When an employee is facing a serious health condition that renders them unable to perform their job functions, they are entitled to take leave under the FMLA. However, it is important for employers to understand and define what qualifies as a serious health condition.

What is a Serious Health Condition Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

A serious health condition, as defined by the FMLA, includes an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that requires inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. This can range from chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, to acute conditions like a heart attack or surgery.

To ensure compliance with the FMLA guidelines, employers should require employees to provide appropriate medical certification from a healthcare provider that verifies the need for leave due to a serious health condition. This certification should include the date the condition began, the expected duration of the condition, and the appropriate medical facts supporting the need for leave.

In situations where additional medical certifications are requested by the employer, such as for extensions of leave or the need for intermittent leave, employers should follow the procedures defined by the Department of Labor (DOL) guidelines to obtain the necessary documentation.

During the period of leave, employers must continue to provide the same group health insurance to employees taking leave under the FMLA. This means that employers must maintain the employee’s health benefits during their leave, just as if they were still actively working.

What Kind of Job Protection Does the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Provide to Eligible Employees?

In addition to continuing health benefits, the FMLA provides job protection for employees taking leave for qualified reasons. This means that employers must guarantee the employee’s job upon their return from leave or provide an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

However, it’s essential to note that not all employees are eligible for FMLA job protection. To be eligible, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period preceding the leave, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

As an employer, it’s crucial to notify employees of their rights under the FMLA. This includes providing them with information about their eligibility for FMLA leave, their rights and responsibilities during leave, and the process for requesting and taking FMLA leave. Employers should consider implementing a clear and comprehensive FMLA policy to ensure compliance and to inform employees about their rights and obligations. This policy should be included in your employee handbook.

How Should Employers Handle Intermittent FMLA Leave?

Sometimes, employees may require leave in smaller increments rather than taking an extended leave of absence. In cases where employees require intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers are responsible for accommodating these requests. Intermittent leave allows employees to take leave in smaller increments, such as a few hours per day or a couple of days per month, rather than taking a continuous extended leave of absence.

How Do You Calculate FMLA Leave for An Employee?

To calculate FMLA leave for an employee, there are a few key factors to consider:

12-Week Entitlement: FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. This can be taken all at once or in increments as needed.

The 12-month period can be determined by the employer, and there are four methods to choose from:

  1. Calendar year: A fixed 12-month period that starts on January 1st.
  2. Any fixed 12-month period: For example, from an employee’s anniversary date.
  3. 12-month period measured backward: This involves looking back 12 months from the date when an employee’s leave begins.
  4. 12-month period measured forward (aka Rolling Year Method): This involves looking forward 12 months from the date when an employee’s leave begins.

Rolling Year Method: Calculating FMLA leave using the rolling year method means that an eligible employee’s 12-month period starts on the first day they take FMLA leave. Each time they take leave, it counts against the total 12 weeks available. Once the 12 weeks are exhausted, the employee must wait until the next rolling year to use any additional FMLA leave.

Qualifying Reasons: FMLA leave can be taken for specific qualifying reasons. These include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, the employee’s own serious health condition, or certain military caregiving or deployment-related situations.

Hours Worked: It’s important to determine the employee’s regular work hours when calculating FMLA leave. Typically, only hours actually worked count towards the employee’s FMLA leave entitlement. This means that paid time off, such as vacation or sick leave, does not count towards the 12-week entitlement.

Reduced Schedule: In some cases, employees may need to work a reduced schedule due to their own or a family member’s medical condition. FMLA allows for reduced schedule leave, where employees can work fewer hours per day or week while still maintaining their job and benefits. This is also referred to as taking intermittent FMLA leave.

Certification and Notice Requirements: When an employee requests FMLA leave, employers have the right to ask for certification of the serious health condition. The employee is generally required to provide this certification within 15 days. Employers should also have policies in place for employees to provide notice of their need for FMLA leave, including advanced notice when possible.

Leave Increments: FMLA leave can be taken in increments as small as one hour. Employers must track and record the amount of leave taken by each eligible employee and ensure that it is accurately reflected in their time and attendance records.

What Are the Employer’s Obligations Under FMLA?

Employers have several obligations under FMLA to ensure compliance and provide support to their employees.

These obligations include:

Providing Notice: Employers are required to provide written notice to employees about their rights and responsibilities under FMLA. This notice should include information about eligibility requirements, the amount of leave available, and any additional requirements or conditions for taking FMLA leave. It is important for employers to regularly communicate this information to their employees to ensure they are aware of their rights.

Designating FMLA Leave: Once an employer becomes aware that an employee’s absence may qualify for FMLA leave, they must designate it as such. This means notifying the employee that their absence is being counted as FMLA leave and tracking it accordingly. Failure to designate leave correctly may result in the employer being in violation of FMLA.

Maintaining Benefits: Employers are required to continue providing health benefits to employees on FMLA leave at the same level as if they were actively working. This includes coverage for the employee and their dependents. Employers also need to be aware of any changes or updates to their benefit plans and communicate them to employees on FMLA leave.

Job Restoration: Upon returning from FMLA leave, employees are entitled to be restored to their original position or an equivalent position with the same pay, benefits, and terms of employment. Employers should be prepared to make accommodations and ensure that the employees’ rights to reinstatement are honored.

Recordkeeping: Employers are required to maintain records of all FMLA leave taken by their employees for a period of three years. These records should include dates of leave taken, reasons for leave, and any documentation related to the need for leave. Accurate recordkeeping is crucial for both legal compliance and effective management of FMLA leave. It helps in documenting the employee’s eligibility, tracking the amount of leave used, and ensuring that the employee’s rights are protected.

What Kinds of Lawsuits Can Employees Bring Against Employers for Violating the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees can bring lawsuits against employers for interference with their FMLA rights, retaliation for exercising FMLA rights, and discrimination related to FMLA rights. These lawsuits can be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor or as private lawsuits against the employer.

If an employer violates an employee’s rights under the FMLA, the employee has the right to seek legal action.

There are different types of lawsuits that can be brought against employers for FMLA violations:

Interference Lawsuits: An interference lawsuit can be filed when an employer denies or interferes with an employee’s right to take FMLA leave. This can include actions such as refusing to approve FMLA leave, discouraging or dissuading employees from taking FMLA leave, or not properly designating leave as FMLA-qualifying. Employees can seek damages for any wages or benefits they lost as a result of the interference.

Retaliation Lawsuits: If an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising their FMLA rights, the employee can file a retaliation lawsuit. Retaliation can take various forms, including demotion, termination, or negative changes in job responsibilities or working conditions. To establish a retaliation claim, the employee must provide evidence of a causal connection between their exercise of FMLA rights and the adverse employment action taken by the employer.

Discrimination Lawsuits: Discrimination based on an employee’s exercise of FMLA rights is also prohibited. If an employer treats an employee less favorably because they took FMLA leave or needed FMLA leave, the employee may file a discrimination lawsuit. This can include actions such as denying promotions, giving negative performance evaluations, or providing inferior job assignments. To prove a discrimination claim, the employee must show that their exercise of FMLA rights was a motivating factor in the employer’s discriminatory actions.

What Kinds of FMLA Matters Has The Lipp Law Firm, PC handled?

The Lipp Law Firm, PC represents both employers and employees in all aspects of employment law throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The Lipp Law Firm primarily litigates matters in these Northern Virginia Courts:

  • The Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division
  • Fairfax County Circuit Court
  • Fairfax County General District Court
  • Prince William County Circuit Court
  • Loudoun County Circuit Court
  • Arlington Circuit Court

The Lipp Law Firm, PC’s attorneys have experience counseling employers on FMLA compliance, serving as general outside counsel to companies of all sizes, and litigating FMLA matters.

Contact The Lipp Law Firm, PC today to receive personalized assistance regarding your Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) issue.

Kathryn Megan Lipp

Katie dedicates her practice to employment separation guidance.
Based on her successful employment litigation practice...Read More