Family and Medical Leave Act

Introduction – What is FMLA?

“The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.”  DOL.gov.

Put simply, the FMLA allows federal, state, and private employees (of companies with 50 or more qualifying employees) who have worked with their current employer for at least one year to take unpaid leave for medical emergencies involving either immediate family members or themselves.

What is Available?

FMLA ensures that qualifying employees receive unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks per year without penalty.  This leave does not have to be used concurrently, and can sometimes even be broken up into blocks of time within a single workday.  You may be permitted to use paid leave in place of your FMLA unpaid leave, and your employer may require you to do this if available.

Practically applied, if something happens with either yourself or an immediate family member, you may not have the leave or your company may not offer the amount of leave necessary to take care of the situation.  FMLA becomes your only means to take care of the situation while staying employed.  Once you return, you should be treated no differently than before.

How do I Apply for FMLA?

I generally do not recommend that employees hire an attorney to handle their FMLA application.  This is because there are no officials forms or official language you must use to request FMLA, though be warned, applying for FMLA at a later date for the same condition does require you to either mention the condition or FMLA.  You are not required to provide any medical evidence to support your request at this point, but your employer will likely request that info and give you 15 days to provide it.  Because some doctor’s offices use copying services to provide medical records or letters that will take more than 15 days to send you what you need, I would recommend that you get your medical documentation together as soon as possible and not wait for you employer to request them.  You may also be required by your employer to re-certify your reason for being on FMLA once every 30 days.

When Should I Apply for FMLA?

If you know the emergency is coming, then you should give 30 days’ notice.  Otherwise, give as much notice as humanly possible.

My Employer Denied Me FMLA/Treated Me Differently Upon Returning.  What do I Do Now?

Not only are you protected from your employer interfering with your right to FMLA, but you are also protected from any retaliation that occurs because of you exercising that right.  If this situation has occurred to you,  you will have two years from the denial/retaliation to file a claim.  The strength of such a claim and what damages are available to you will vary wildly depending on the circumstances of each case.  If you have been denied FMLA or you believe that you are being treated differently after using FMLA, contact us today for a free case evaluation.