Family life is important to American workers. Employees need and want to take time off to handle family issues that arise from time to time. Some types of family issues may be more complex and take longer than just a few days to settle. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 to ensure that all employees have access to time off work for important family matters.
The FMLA only applies to covered employers. Employers must meet specific criteria to be covered by the FMLA. Covered employers in the private sector and must have had 50 or more employees in at least 20 workweeks in the current or previous year. All public agencies including governmental agencies and schools are covered, regardless of their number of employees. It is against the law for a covered employer to deny or interfere with FMLA benefits of employees. A covered employer cannot fire an employee or discriminate against an employee for exercising their right to family leave.
What Employees are Eligible for FMLA?
As an employer, you need to know how employees qualify for benefits under the FMLA:
- An employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months prior to requesting a family leave.
- Additionally, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period immediately preceding the requested leave.
- The employee must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
It is important to note that the 12-month employment requirement does not have to be consecutive. There are special rules that pertain to returning reservists under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Obligations of Employers
Covered employers have a number of responsibilities associated with the FMLA. Covered employers must:
- Post a notice that explains the FMLA in an area where employees can view it.
- Provide information about FMLA to employees in handbooks or new hire materials.
- Provide an eligibility notice to an employee upon a leave request.
- Notify an employee whether a requested leave is designated FMLA and provide specific details regarding the benefits.
When an employee makes a leave request, due to his own or a family member’s serious health condition, the employer may request certification from the health provider. In addition, the employer may request a second or third medical opinion at the company’s expense.
When an employee returns from leave, the employer must restore the employee to their original job or to an equivalent job. An equivalent job is one that provides equivalent salary and benefits as the original position. Employers must continue to provide group health insurance during the time off for leave. A salaried employee who meets the Fair Labor Standards Act exemption cannot lose their exemption status when they are reinstated following a leave.
As an employer, you need to understand the requirements under the FMLA so you can properly administer benefits. To learn more about employment laws, contact our employment law attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd at (608) 784-8310 or online.