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Monday, February 10, 2020

What is the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is designed to protect employees from losing their jobs because of family or medical issues.  In short, FMLA entitles both male and female employees who meet certain eligibility requirements unpaid leave of up to 12 work weeks during any twelve 12 month period for the following reasons:

  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job function
  • To care for a family member -- spouse, child or parent -- with a serious health condition
  • The birth or adoption of a child

Some eligibility requirements of the FMLA, include time on the job or hours worked preceding the leave. In addition, the employer must be of a certain size and have 50 or more employees. 

The employer and employee must provide notice to each other that such time off will count towards the FMLA entitlement described above.  An employer may also require the employee to use any unpaid vacation, sick or personal days towards the 12 week allotment, except when the leave is for the birth or adoption of a child. Since the FMLA time is unpaid, it is often referred to as the employer “holding” the employees job while on leave and not replacing the position.   

Such protection will usually involve the company hiring a temporary worker to cover while the employee is on leave. When the employee returns from leave, the employee is given his or her old job back with the same position title, salary and benefits.  If the employee returns and finds his or job has been given to another employee, there may be a claim under the FMLA. An employer who violates the FMLA may be liable for monetary damages, which can include lost wages and benefits with interest.  

The Takeaway

Employees face challenges when trying to balance the demands or work and family.  An employee should not have to risk losing his or her job when requesting time off for covered family absences.  FMLA is an important law that protects workers with family needs from losing their jobs.

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